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Team Notes week 15 2022
NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFF
Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... Even the Bears. There is no better way to jump start your weekend than browsing these always educational -- often irreverent -- team-by-team, Fantasy-specific offerings. ...
Access specific teams by clicking on a team name in the schedule appearing directly to your left or by clicking on a helmet below; return to the helmets by hitting the link labeled "Menu" following each teams notes. ...
Arizona CardinalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
Kyler Murray was carted off the field with a noncontact knee injury less than 90 seconds into Monday night's game against the New England Patriots.
Tests confirmed that Murray suffered a season-ending torn ACL.
"He'll be done for the year. Torn ACL," head coach Kliff Kingsbury confirmed. "Obviously unfortunate. Tough to see and talking to him last night, yeah, tough night."
Murray will have further testing and get "some different opinions" before undergoing surgery.
Kingsbury, also dealing with the death of his college coach, Mike Leach, on Tuesday, was understandably subdued during his news conference.
He called it a "tough couple of days."
It's also been a tough season for Kingsbury and the Cardinals on the field.
The Cardinals are 4-9 after entering the season with high hopes. Murray and Kingsbury both were lightning rods for criticism before Murray's season-ending injury after both signed expensive extensions in the offseason.
"Both of us heard enough this year to be highly motivated for the offseason," Kingsbury said. "I know he will be, too. Those surgeries have been proven recently that guys are coming back and faster and stronger, and I know he's excited about that process."
In case you missed it, Murray went down after a 3-yard run to the right on the third play of the game. The clock read 13:39 while Murray was attended to by team athletic trainers and doctors. He wasn't touched before he went down.
"Anytime you see a noncontact injury, you know it's worse right away," wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said.
"That hurt. Kyler put a lot into this. He's been preparing his butt off to get back after the hamstring [injury that kept him out of Weeks 10 and 11], so for that to happen, I hate that for him. I know he'll recover and get back to himself."
Murray's teammates took a knee around him almost immediately, and Kingsbury was also on the field checking on the star quarterback.
The cart took Murray off the field toward the Cardinals' locker room as he sat on the back with a team athletic trainer. ESPN's Lisa Salters reported on the game broadcast that Murray was sobbing as he entered the tunnel on the cart.
"Just tough because he controls the offense," left tackle Josh Jones said. "He's a crazy guy out there. He can do so much. It was tough losing him so early. I hope he's OK. I don't know what was going on with him. I just hope he's OK."
Backup Colt McCoy entered the game in Murray's place. He threw for 246 yards on 27-of-40 passing with an interception against New England and was sacked six times in Arizona's 27-13 loss.
The 36-year-old McCoy had a 1-1 record as the team's quarterback when Murray was out for two games last month. McCoy is set to start the final four games for the Cardinals should Murray miss time. McCoy hasn't started at least six games in a season since 2011 and is set to do so at 36 -- a notion McCoy chuckled at.
He believes he's ready to take over the offense, especially with a week of practice ahead of him before Arizona travels to Denver to face the Broncos on Sunday.
"I've played for a long time and you always gotta be ready," McCoy said. "You never want to see the guy in front of you go down. You just don't. I've had a lot of opportunities in my career. I've gotten injured. So, I'm thankful to be on this team, on this squad and I love the guys that we have."
Kingsbury agreed that McCoy is ready.
"There's no doubt," Kingsbury said. "He's got a great feel for the system. I thought he did some good stuff tonight. It's always tough when you haven't had the reps during the week, but I thought he gave us a chance. Some of those plays that got called back, a couple of tough drops and then, obviously, the turnovers just put us behind the eight ball."
Murray is a two-time Pro Bowl selection who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 draft out of Oklahoma. The 25-year-old signed a $230.5 million contract during the offseason that could keep him with the franchise until 2028.
Murray was playing in his 11th game this season. Coming into Monday's game, he had thrown for 2,359 yards, 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
The Cardinals have been plagued by injuries this season, particularly on the offense. They're missing four of their starting offensive linemen and lost tight end Zach Ertz for the season, also because of a knee injury.
"We've battled injuries all year long and the guys that are gonna go in there. ... They're gonna fight 'til the very end," McCoy said. "I don't think there's any more than you can ask for and I'd be proud to go lead them."
McCoy doesn't have the running ability of Murray, but he'll give the Cardinals a fighting chance over the season's final four weeks.
The Cardinals aren't officially eliminated from the playoff race, but their chances of making the field are slim. According to Associated Press sports writer David Brandt, Arizona will spend the last four games evaluating its roster, figuring out what to bring back in 2023, and hoping Murray makes a full recovery.
They travel to face the Broncos on Sunday. ...
For the record, the Cardinals placed Murray and wide receiver Rondale Moore, who had missed the past two games with a groin injury, on injured reserve Wednesday.
Other notes of interest. ... According to Darren Urban of the team's official website, the Cardinals took more deep shots Monday.
Not sure if that was going to be the plan had Murray stayed in the lineup, but there were chances down the field on shots to Marquise Brown and Hopkins. One Brown try drew a 39-yard penalty, although another chance misfired when McCoy was hit as he threw and the ball floated well short for an interception.
Robbie Anderson actually made some plays, including a pretty incredible one-handed grab for 21 yards.
Anderson had his most productive game since being traded to the Cardinals earlier this season, catching four passes for 50 yards.
Hopkins is one of the game's elite receivers, but had a big mistake on Monday.
It was his fumble that was picked up by New England's Raekwon McMillan and returned 23 yards for a touchdown. That gave the Patriots a 20-13 lead in the third quarter and they never trailed again.
Tight end Trey McBride, who has had a rough rookie season, made the play of his year when he somehow held on to a 15-yard catch while being absolutely blasted by defensive back Marcus Jones. ..
James Conner rushed 15 times for 85 yards and also caught six of seven targets for 29 yards.
As FantasyPros' Scott Youngson suggested, Conner did his best to keep the Cardinals in this one after Murray went down early with a knee injury. Doing it against a tough Patriots' run defense made it all the more impressive.
Expect continued heavy reliance on Conner down the stretch, starting with Sunday's game against the Broncos.
One last note here. ... Free agent quarterback Carson Strong worked out for the Cardinals last week.
The team had no idea that it might need a quarterback this week, but a day after losing starter Murray for the season with an ACL tear, the Cardinals agreed to terms with Strong, Mike Garafolo of NFL Media reports, adding him to the practice squad.
In addition, the Cardinals will sign David Blough off of the Vikings practice squad.
You can access complete stats for the Cardinals Week 14 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Josh Dobbs, Clayton Tune, Kyler Murray
RBs: James Conner, Keaontay Ingram, Emari Demercado
WRs: Marquise Brown, Zach Pascal, Rondale Moore, Michael Wilson, Greg Dortch
TEs: Zach Ertz, Trey McBride, Geoff Swaim
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
The Falcons officially have a new starting quarterback.
A report last week indicated the team would start rookie Desmond Ridder rather than Marcus Mariota after their bye week.
The Falcons are back from that time off on Monday and head coach Arthur Smith confirmed that he made a change for the Week 15 matchup against the Saints.
"I did make a switch at quarterback. Ridder will be the starter. It's a performance-based decision," Smith said at a press conference.
While Smith said the decision was made because of Mariota's performance, the former starter is also dealing with an injury. Smith said Mariota is having his knee examined and that he will likely be placed on injured reserve.
Via Josh Kendall of The Athletic, Smith said Tuesday that Mariota is currently not with the Falcons.
Smith told Mariota last Thursday that he’ll be benched for Ridder. On Friday, Smith learned that Mariota planned to “step away” from the team.
On Wednesday, Smith added to the story, telling reporters Mariota will indeed have knee surgery and is headed to injured reserve.
"I’m not a medical expert, I’m just telling you that it had nothing to do with the decision," per Smith.
Whatever the case, the Falcons signed Logan Woodside off of the Titans practice squad over the weekend and he will serve as Ridder's backup.
As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein notes, the quarterback switch comes after the Falcons have lost four of five games while scoring more than 20 points just once in that stretch.
After their 19-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 13, Smith opened the possibility of moving from Mariota to Ridder, saying they would be evaluating every position during the bye week.
Mariota had missed multiple open receivers during the loss to the Steelers, continuing a season-long issue.
The Falcons selected Ridder in the third round of this year's draft after four years as a starter at Cincinnati.
The plan all along had been to develop Ridder behind Mariota, who started the first 13 games of the season.
Ridder worked behind Mariota throughout training camp, and while he played a lot in the preseason, he was never in a position to unseat Mariota before the season began.
Once the regular season started, Ridder ran the scout team and would gather players after practice almost every day to get extra repetitions. He also worked with Mariota, asking him questions about anything he saw to help his preparation.
Rothstein reminded readers that Ridder won 44 games at Cincinnati, the third most in college football history, and never lost at home.
But he said he accepted he would be the backup in Atlanta and would learn from it before hopefully becoming the top guy.
That time has arrived.
This season, Mariota is 184-of-300 for 2,219 yards, 15 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Mariota has been off-target on 20.5 percent of his throws this season, tied with since-benched New York Jets quarterback Zach Wilson for third worst in the NFL. The league average is 15.2 percent. Receivers have dropped only 2 percent of his throws.
In college, Ridder was 810-of-1,304 for 10,239 yards, 87 touchdowns and 28 interceptions. He also ran the ball 501 times for 2,180 yards and 28 touchdowns.
Worth noting. ... Ridder will face a couple tough tests to start his time as starter, with road trips in New Orleans and Baltimore the next two weeks. ...
While we'll be getting our first good look at Ridder this weekend, we've had some time to assess a couple of the team's other rookie skill players.
According to the team's official website, Drake London continues to show and prove himself each game.
In Week 13 against the Steelers, London had a career-high 95 receiving yards on 12 receptions, averaging 15.8 yards a catch. The USC product currently leads the Falcons receiving corps with 47 receptions for 533 yards and four touchdowns and he's playing up to the expectations that were set for him this season.
Compared to other rookie wide receivers across the league, London has the third most receiving yards behind New Orleans Saints receiver Chris Olave and New York Jets receiver Garrett Wilson through Week 13.
"What we ask guys to do, they're a part of not just the pass game at wideout but they're a part of the run game and you can see Drake taking that professionalism in the meeting rooms," offensive coordinator Dave Ragone said last month. "[He's] trying to bring it to the practice [field] and then carrying it forward to the games, just like all of the young guys that we have."
Meanwhile, if there's one player that has seen tremendous progression since the start of the season, it's Tyler Allgeier.
The rookie running back currently leads that position group with 604 yards on 131 carries, one touchdown and averages 4.61 yards per carry.
The Falcons have the No. 2 ranked rushing offense in the NFL, averaging 158.9 yards a game this season, and the BYU product has played a significant role in Atlanta's rushing attack. Last month, Smith said of Allgeier that "he's ahead of where I thought he would be as a rookie running back, certainly in a protection aspect."
Smith also added that Allgeier's instinct in the passing game, his awareness, and understanding of where to settle down in zones, allows him to have good spatial awareness.
And finally. ... According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, The Falcons have released veteran running back Damien Williams.
Williams is said to be "100 percent healthy and well rested."
QBs: Desmond Ridder, Taylor Heinicke, Logan Woodside
RBs: Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, Cordarrelle Patterson, Chris Ogbonnaya
WRs: Drake London, Mack Hollins, KhaDarel Hodge, Scott Miller, Jared Bernhardt, Josh Ali
TEs: Kyle Pitts, Jonnu Smith, MyCole Pruitt, John FitzPatrick
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
As the banged-up Baltimore Ravens continue to overcome adversity and move closer to securing a playoff berth, head coach John Harbaugh sounded optimistic that quarterback Tyler Huntley would return to start Saturday's game at the Cleveland Browns.
As ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley reported, Huntley, who was filling in for the injured Lamar Jackson, was put in the concussion protocol midway through the third quarter of the Ravens' 16-14 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. The Ravens turned to undrafted rookie Anthony Brown to finish out the game at quarterback as the Ravens (9-4) remained atop the AFC North and ended a four-game losing streak to the rival Steelers.
Harbaugh was upbeat about Huntley's availability after talking to him in the locker room.
"Listen, I can't speak on it, but he seems good to me," Harbaugh said. "He's reciting the months of the year backwards. Can you do that right now?"
When talking about the Ravens' quarterback options for Saturday, Harbaugh did not mention Jackson, who injured his knee a week ago. League sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter that Jackson is not expected to be ready for Baltimore's game in Cleveland this weekend.
"I just don't know. I don't know," Harbaugh said. "You make some kind of a statement and it turns out to be. . . . You just don't have enough information to make it yet; that's how these injuries work."
Harbaugh said having three quarterbacks active for Saturday's game is a consideration given the health concerns. Brett Hundley re-signed with the team's practice squad last week.
Huntley was injured with 7:26 left in the third quarter, when he took a crushing hit from Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick on a third-down run. Fitzpatrick's right elbow landed on Huntley's face mask, causing the quarterback's head to snap backward. Huntley lay on the ground for a few seconds before being helped up by teammates.
After being evaluated in the medical tent, Huntley jogged to the locker room with the Ravens holding a 13-7 lead and was eventually ruled out of the game. In his first start of the season, Huntley was 8-of-12 passing for 88 yards and ran for 31 yards.
Harbaugh, though, did stop short of guaranteeing that Huntley would come back and start at the Browns (5-8).
"We'll see how it goes," Harbaugh said. "You trust the docs on that and they'll do a good job with him. Whatever it is, it is."
Huntley was able to participate in Baltimore's walk-through on Tuesday, and while he remains in the concussion protocol, he followed that up by working fully Wednesday.
I'll be following up on the quarterback situation via Late-Breaking Update as Saturday's game draws nearer. ...
Also on the injury front. ... The Ravens estimated receiver Demarcus Robinson (illness) as non-participants Tuesday. ...
Meanwhile, winning for the sixth time in seven games, the Ravens relied on an opportunistic defense and dominant ground game.
Baltimore intercepted Mitch Trubisky three times inside its 15-yard line and produced 215 yards on the ground.
Energizing Baltimore's rushing attack with 120 yards on 15 carries, J.K. Dobbins was the offensive difference-maker on Sunday.
Dobbins had not played since Week 6, deciding to undergo another surgical procedure on his knee in late October that would remove scar tissue and give him more agility for the stretch run of the season.
The plan is working. It was Dobbins' first 100-yard game since Week 16 of the 2020 season.
It has been a long road back for Dobbins, who missed the entire 2021 season with a torn ACL, LCL, meniscus and hamstring. He returned for four games this season, but in this latest return, Dobbins looked more like the player he was during his impressive rookie season. He set the tone with a 44-yard run in the first quarter that set up his four-yard touchdown run on his next carry.
Dobbins said he would have scored on his 44-yard gallop if he had been in better shape. However, there's still time left in the season and from this point, Dobbins has big plans.
"It's still not me all the way yet and I'm going to continue to get better," Dobbins said. "Hopefully those 100-yard games will turn into 200-yard games. I'm going to keep getting healthier."
Having Dobbins back puts an explosive element in Baltimore's running game that it doesn't have without him.
Dobbins' ability to cut and find holes gave the Steelers fits all day and kept Baltimore's offense on schedule. Gus Edwards also had a strong day (13 carries, 66 yards), as the Ravens' run game allowed them to control the tempo of the game.
This is the way Baltimore wants to play football, and it had been a long time since Dobbins and Edwards were in the lineup together. The offense dominated the line of scrimmage and Dobbins kept finding holes.
"The running game is what we needed in this game," Harbaugh said. "A bunch of running yards in that final drive. Gus too, the last two runs that he had. He came around there like a freight train."
Dobbins' physical struggles over the past season have strengthened him mentally. Few players love the game more than he does, and it has been difficult for him to miss so much time. But Dobbins is glad he opted to have his latest surgery. He said he woke up in the middle of the night this season and knew he had to do it.
"When I got out of surgery, walking it felt so much better," Dobbins said. "I knew it was going to be better.
"When I got injured last year, that was the worst thing ever, top five worst things that have happened to me in my life. But I had to learn patience. When we're out there and going crazy, I'm calm and ready to go."
For the record, Dobbins played the most snaps (42.6 percent) in the backfield with Edwards next at 34 percent; Kenyan Drake got 18 percent of the snaps. ...
Mark Andrews' stat lines have been quiet in recent weeks, and he finished with just two catches for 17 yards in this one.
Part of the issue is he commands a lot of attention from the defense. The other is he keeps getting missed when wide open. Huntley didn't seem to see Andrews dragging across the field for what should have been a touchdown near the end of the first half. The Ravens settled for a field goal and a 13-7 lead.
Still, LateRound.com's JJ Zachariason notes that Andrews and Robinson accounted for 12 of a possible 17 Baltimore targets Sunday.
Finally. ... The importance of Justin Tucker's three field goals Sunday shouldn't be lost. He hit from 42, 35 and 30 yards and set the Ravens' new franchise record for points scored in the process, surpassing Matt Stover. Tucker is now 27 of 28 in Pittsburgh over his career.
You can access complete stats for the Ravens Week 14 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley, Josh Johnson
RBs: Gus Edwards, Justice Hill, J.K. Dobbins
WRs: Zay Flowers, Odell Beckham, Rashod Bateman, Nelson Agholor, Devin Duvernay, Tylan Wallace
TEs: Mark Andrews, Isaiah Likely, Charlie Kolar
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
With Josh Allen and the Bills offense having difficulty finding its footing on a slick field, the defense combined for four sacks, forced two turnovers and clinched a 20-12 win by having Jets QB Mike White turn the ball over on downs by throwing four straight incompletions.
The Bills never trailed in a game during which Allen threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to Dawson Knox in the closing minute of the second quarter and then scored on a 5-yard run on Buffalo's first possession of the third quarter.
The AFC-leading Bills (10-3) won their fourth straight since a two-game skid, which included a 20-17 loss at the Jets. Buffalo has won at least 10 of its first 13 games for the seventh time in franchise history.
But make no mistake.
It was a series of fits and starts for Buffalo's offense.
As Chris Brown of the team's official website reported, execution was lacking throughout the afternoon as the offense ended their first five possessions with punts. Five punts marked the most in a game by the Bills this season and they all came in the first half.
By game's end they had eight with one coming after a safety.
The league's number one third down offense struggled to move the chains as they went 2-for-8 on conversions in the first half and went 0-for-5 in the second half. Their 232 total net yards were a season low, with their previous low of 317 coming at the hands of the same Jets' defense.
"It's a good, good defense," said Allen of New York's fourth ranked unit. "They play very hard, they're coached really well, they've got some really good players over there. Playing these division games, teams see you twice, they kind of know what you like, know what you typically like to do. So they can kind of game plan around that a little more specifically. Early on, it wasn't great. I thought second, third quarter we got into a little bit of a rhythm."
A two-minute drill at the end of the half broke a scoreless stalemate as both defensive units dominated the play. But a pair of Allen scrambles sandwiched around a 4th-and-1 offsides by the Jets and a pair of short passes to Isaiah McKenzie kept the drive alive before Allen hit Knox on the aforementioned 24-yard scoring play.
The Bills added a second touchdown drive in the third quarter after the Jets tied the game at seven on their first possession of the second half. A fumble recovery by DaQuan Jones led to a drive start at the Jets' 44 for the offense, but the drive stalled much like the handful in the first half, and they settled for a field goal.
"Plenty to work on starting with fundamentals and then some things obviously that didn't go our way we got to get better at," said head coach Sean McDermott. "Fundamentally we dropped some passes, we were off the mark a little bit earlier with our passing game and then just got to do a better job being more consistent, being more consistent there."
Penalties also put them in long down and distance allowing the Jets' pass rush to get home, sacking Allen three times and hitting on four other drop backs. The offensive line was responsible for six of the team's seven penalties in the game as the Jets' defensive front again proved formidable.
And with a 20-7 lead entering the fourth quarter, Buffalo's offense couldn't put the game away as they managed one net yard on their final three possessions prior to the final kneel down possession to end the game.
"We've got to finish better," said Allen. "We've got to end the game with the ball in our hands and not put that much stress on our defense."
Despite posting their fourth straight victory, Buffalo's 20 points scored marked the fourth consecutive week that the Bills have watched their offensive point total decline.
Allen finished 16 of 27 for a season-low 147 yards.
More important, he didn't turn the ball over as he did twice in Buffalo's loss to the Jets last month.
Still, from a fantasy perspective, there's reason for concern.
As LateRound.com's JJ Zachariason noted, Allen hasn't thrown more than two touchdown passes in a game since Week 6. Over his first six games, he was averaging 28.8 standard fantasy points per game. Since, it's been 20.3.
Knox's TD was the momentum boost that the team needed going into the second half.
And even though the Jets answered with a touchdown on their opening drive of the third quarter, Allen responded with a 5-yard rushing TD and kicker Tyler Bass followed up with two field goals to give the Bills their 10th win of the season.
McDermott acknowledged the importance of complementing one another within the offense and Allen implemented that by spreading the ball around to nine different offensive players. But Knox led the offense with four receptions for 41 receiving yards and the Bills' lone receiving TD.
Knox is now tied with Scott Chandler (17) for the third-most receiving touchdowns in a career by a Bills TE.
"He's (Knox) been doing such a good job in our run game and in our pass protection," Allen said. "But again, you see the type of weapon he is with the ball in his hands. So again, just finding new ways to get him the ball and allow our guys to make some plays for us."
Meanwhile, no Bills wide receiver had 40 yards against the Jets. Their "worst" top receiver in receiving yards this season prior to this week saw 62 receiving yards.
In addition, the Bills didn't get the running game going with their backs and finished with their fewest net yards in a game this season (232) by almost 100 yards.
As for the backfield splits: James Cook played 41 percent of Buffalo's snaps. Devin Singletary was at 50 percent.
Last week, those numbers were 44 percent for both players.
As ESPN.com's Alaina Getzenberg suggested, the offense has to find ways to get the ball more consistently into the hands of their playmakers outside of Allen.
Their next chance to do that will be when the Dolphins hit Buffalo for a Saturday night game. ...
One last item here. ... The Bills announced a few roster moves on Tuesday, including the return of one of their formerly key receivers, Cole Beasley.
The veteran wideout has signed with the team's practice squad.
Beasley appeared in two games for Tampa Bay earlier this year, catching four passes for 17 yards.
In 16 games with eight starts with Buffalo last year, Beasley caught 82 passes for 693 yards with one touchdown. Now he'll return to the club with built-in chemistry with Allen and previous knowledge of the offense, though there is a different play-caller in Ken Dorsey.
The club also let go of receiver Marquez Stevenson from its practice squad.
You can access complete stats for the Bills Week 14 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Josh Allen, Kyle Allen
RBs: James Cook, Damien Harris, Latavius Murray, Reggie Gilliam
WRs: Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Trent Sherfield, Khalil Shakir, Deonte Harty
TEs: Dawson Knox, Dalton Kincaid, Quintin Morris
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
Don't look now, but Steve Wilks has the Panthers poised to make noise down the stretch.
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra reported it, Carolina "bludgeoned" the Seattle Seahawks, 30-24, on Sunday to earn their first road win in more than a year.
Players credited Wilks with keeping the team together despite the early season struggles that led to Matt Rhule's firing.
"We ride behind Wilks," linebacker Shaq Thompson said, via the team's official website. "He came in here, he's a true alpha, he's a true leader, and guys follow behind him.
"He's done amazing. Look what we've been going through."
When taking over as the interim HC, Wilks promised his club would play hard-nosed football and stellar defense, run the ball and avoid mistakes.
They checked off each box Sunday in demolishing Seattle.
Sam Darnold threw one touchdown pass, Chuba Hubbard and Raheem Blackshear both had rushing TDs.
"With everything that we've gone through with coaching changes, getting rid of players ... all those different things and to see how those guys respond and came out and played today, it is pretty thrilling and emotional," Wilks acknowledged.
Darnold and Carolina built leads of 17-0 and 20-7 to take advantage of a sloppy, unenthusiastic first-half performance by the Seahawks.
In the second half, the Panthers simply ran through Seattle's defense.
Hubbard, Blackshear and D'Onta Foreman were a three-headed trio that Seattle couldn't stop on the ground.
Carolina rushed for 223 yards, with 180 coming from those three backs. Foreman and Hubbard both had 74 yards rushing.
Hubbard's 2-yard TD run early in the second quarter gave Carolina a 17-0 lead and Blackshear's 8-yard TD run with 6:57 remaining pushed the lead to 27-17. Blackshear's TD capped a drive where Carolina ran on eight of the 10 plays and gained 68 of its 74 yards on the ground.
Darnold was 14 of 24 for 120 yards passing, but didn't need to do anything special through the air with the success on the ground.
"I just felt like we had momentum," Hubbard said. "(Offensive) line was dominating. They were tired. I mean, you could see it. The line was just wearing on them. Everybody was just wearing on them. We were pounding them. That's what we pride ourselves on."
"It's thrilling, again, just for the men in that locker room for how hard they work, how dedicated they've been," Wilks said. "We found ourselves to be able to work through 'it.' I always talk about don't allow 'it' to get in the way, whatever 'it' may be. And, you know, it started with the coaching change. And you know, I can go on and on with the different things, with players leaving, coaches leaving, whatever. And you know, those men in that locker room, find a way to refocus and get it done."
The win is the Panthers' third in their last four games, moving Carolina to 4-4 since Wilks took over.
In a woeful NFC South where the Bucs are collapsing, the Saints can't get out of their own way and the Falcons have turned to a rookie quarterback, Wilks' Panthers have morphed into the most consistent team.
"You talk about playoff mentality; I told them boys last night when I talked to the team, these are the games, if you want to be a playoff team, these are the games you have to win, these environments," Thompson said. "And these guys showed up."
The Panthers' final four games are all against teams currently sporting losing records -- vs. Pittsburgh (5-8), vs. Detroit (6-7), at Tampa Bay (6-7), at New Orleans (4-9). With the two division games at the end of the schedule against rivals it's already beaten this season, Carolina has a chance to do the unthinkable, going from the cellar to the penthouse.
"We always just stayed together," Thompson said. "That's the biggest thing. Win, lose or draw, we were staying together. We were all going to fight for each other. All of our names are on this team, and we're going to go out with a bang.
"Everybody's buying in. We're one game behind, and we're taking each one one at a time. I couldn't be more proud of this team."
The Panthers staying together and giving themselves a chance to make a postseason run is a credit to Wilks who could see an incredible run turn into a full-time gig in Carolina.
Speaking of incredible.
As Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio reminded his Twitter followers Sunday, on October 10, owner David Tepper said Wilks can earn the title of head coach in Carolina beyond 2022 if he does an "incredible job."
He's doing an incredible job.
Remember, the Panthers are 3-0 at home and their next two games at Bank of America Stadium against the Steelers (5-8) and Lions (6-7).
ESPN.com's David Newton wrote: "Make it 5-0, and Wilks has a strong case for the full-time job next season and sets Carolina up for a New Year's Day showdown at Tampa Bay.
"Heck, he might have a case for NFL Coach of the Year if he can pull this off. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... Foreman played 34 snaps and rushed 21 times, despite missing practice time this week with a foot injury. Hubbard and Blackshear combined for 37 snaps and 22 touches as the Panthers put the ball in their hands in the second half.
As LateRound.com's JJ Zachariason notes, Foreman has failed to reach a 50 percent snap share in two of his last three games. ...
According to Associated Press sports writer Steve Reed, second-year receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. made perhaps the catch of the week in the NFL, when he hauled in a pass from Darnold using his legs. The ball got loose in Marshall's arms and travelled downward forcing him to use his legs to squeeze it tight as he was going to the ground. Seattle coach Pete Carroll challenged the play, but Marshall's catch was upheld.
"It was great effort on his part," Wilks said. "When you look at Terrace, we talk about trying to take the next step and we have really seen that with him. ..."
Shi Smith played 24 offensive snaps after not playing any against Denver. He also caught his first career touchdown pass.
On the injury front. ... Receiver D.J. Moore played all but three offensive snaps in Sunday's win, but he didn't have much of an impact on the stat sheet.
Darnold targeted Moore three times during the game, but Moore did not catch any passes -- he did run twice for six yards -- during the victory.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported, after a Monday MRI, that Moore is now considered "day-to-day" with a knee sprain. A source tells Schefter the injury is "nothing significant."
Moore has 46 catches for 605 yards and four touchdowns this season.
I'll be following up on Moore, who was seen on the practice field Wednesday, via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Finally. ... Kicker Eddy Pineiro was recognized as NFC Special Teams Player of the Week after he accounted for 12 points on Sunday.
Pineiro was good on all three of his extra points and on all three of his field goals, turning in a perfect 6-of-6 day kicking.
You can access complete stats for the Panthers Week 14 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Bryce Young, Andy Dalton
RBs: Miles Sanders, Chuba Hubbard, Raheem Blackshear
WRs: Adam Thielen, D.J. Chark, Jonathan Mingo, Terrace Marshall Jr., Laviska Shenault, Ihmir Smith-Marsette
TEs: Hayden Hurst, Ian Thomas, Tommy Tremble, Giovanni Ricci
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
The Chicago Bears had the ball late in the first quarter when Justin Fields noticed Green Bay Packers outside linebacker Kingsley Enagbare crashing the line last week.
At that moment, he made a decision. Rather than give the ball to running back David Montgomery, he opted to keep it.
Fields faked a handoff and started dashing toward the right sideline before making a vicious cut back toward the middle to avoid Packers cornerback Keisean Nixon in the backfield.
He then floored it, racing 55 yards untouched to the end zone on his latest spectacular run.
Fields' emergence after a slow start to his second season is by far the most important development for the Bears in a year when wins have been scarce.
Chicago (3-10) stumbled into its bye with six consecutive losses since a Week 7 stunner at New England and nine in the past 10 games after falling to Green Bay.
"(Wins are) going to start rolling in here soon, so just got to keep working and keep getting better," Fields said.
Chicago has just two winning seasons since the 2010 team lost to Green Bay in the NFC championship game. General manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus inherited a big job when they took over for the fired Ryan Pace and Matt Nagy in January.
As Associated Press sports writer Andrew Seligman notes, there are still plenty of issues to address on both sides of the ball if the Bears are going to climb out of the NFC North's cellar. Their defense wasn't dominating early in the season, even before Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith were traded prior to the deadline. And safety Eddie Jackson's season-ending foot injury against the New York Jets two weeks ago was another big hit.
An offense that was already short on playmakers also lost a key figure that day, with top receiver Darnell Mooney suffering an ankle injury that will keep him out for the remainder of the year.
Fields missed that game after dislocating his non-throwing, left shoulder the previous week against Atlanta. But he was back to his explosive ways last week.
Fields threw for a season-high 254 yards to go with the big touchdown run and completed 20 of 25 passes. He had a 56-yard completion to Equanimeous St. Brown that set up a touchdown and a 49-yard pass that a leaping N'Keal Harry caught against his helmet, though he was also intercepted on the final two possessions.
"We all know he's athletic, but I don't think people give him enough credit as a thrower," St. Brown said. "He's a great passer. He makes impressive throws even on the move. So I think he deserves more credit than he is given as a passer."
Fields' progress coming off a shaky rookie season has transformed an offense that struggled to score early in the season. The Bears have averaged about 25 points over the past seven games compared to 15.5 in the first six, though they're still unbalanced with a run game that leads the league and a passing attack that ranks last.
"The foundation we're laying in terms of how we play, the intensity of which we play," Eberflus said. "You can see a spirited team out there -- a team that perseveres through adversity, which is what you need. We're trying to build championship habits. I keep telling the guys that. It's championship habits. Every single week, one week at a time."
Fields leads all quarterbacks -- and ranks seventh overall among all player -- in rushing with 905 yards. He's averaging a league-leading 7.1 per carry, and with eight rushing TDs, he's second only to Philadelphia's Jalen Hurts (nine) among QBs.
Fields' three touchdown runs of 50 yards or more are the most by a quarterback in a season. No other QB in the Super Bowl era has done it three times in a career. Two of Fields' 13 touchdown passes are for 50 yards or more. By comparison, from 2019 through 2021, the Bears' offense produced three TDs from Chicago territory.
No wonder cornerback Jaylon Johnson is glad he doesn't have to face Fields in a game. He sees enough in practice.
"You see him running and you're like, 'Man, you probably would have got tackled,'" Johnson said. "Just going against the defense. We're like, 'Man, we're tackling you.' Then when you go out there on a Sunday, you're like, 'No, they're not tackling that dude.'
"Sometimes we get in practice and what we used to call sacks last year or at the beginning of the year, we're like, 'Oh, sack. Sack. Sack.' It's like, 'No, that probably wouldn't have been a sack.'"
Coming off the bye, the Bears will be preparing to host the Eagles this week followed by the Bills in Week 16.
They'll close out the season with games in Detroit and at home against the Vikings in their regular-season finale. ...
Worth watching. ... Eberflus told reporters that Fields will miss the team’s first on-field work of the week Wednesday because of an illness. Eberflus called Fields day-to-day in regard to his status for Sunday’s home game against the Eagles.
Thursday should bring more of an idea about Fields’ outlook because a return to practice should put him on track to start this weekend.
Also of interest. ... As Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper noted on Tuesday, the Bears weren't seen as buyers heading into the trade deadline so it came as a surprise that they sent a second-round pick to the Steelers for wide receiver Chase Claypool last month.
Claypool's arrival bolstered an undermanned receiving corps that got even thinner when Mooney was lost for the season, but Claypool hasn't been a major contributor. He has 12 catches for 111 yards in five games with the team.
Fields missed one of those games with a left shoulder injury and the Bears have remained a run-first offense, but the low production still led to a question for Eberflus about whether Claypool is up to speed with the scheme.
"I wouldn't say he's there yet," Eberflus said, via Alex Shapiro of NBCSportsChicago.com. "I would say he's getting there. He's getting there and working there just like everybody else. But again, it's all new to him and there's a lot of volume of offense that he has to learn and he's getting there. He needs alignment, assignment and get all the things down, the route depths and the routes, the discipline of running the routes. He's in a good spot. He's in a good spot. We're looking forward for him to get better every single week."
With four weeks left in the Bears season, they'll likely have to wait until next year before Claypool has a full grasp of the team's offense and a chance to offer full return on the price they paid to bring him to Chicago.
For the record, Claypool was held out of Wednesday's practice due to a knee issue. I'll have more Fields and Claypool via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Finally. ... 670 The Score's Chris Emma reports Khalil Herbert could return to the Bears lineup in Week 16.
Herbert has been on injured reserve since mid-November with a hip injury. Montgomery has handled the bulk of the backfield touches in Herbert's absence, and could see his role reduced with Herbert's return.
Might be worth checking your league's waiver wire to see if Herbert is available and make a proactive add before the rush is on next week.
QBs: Justin Fields, Tyson Bagent, Nathan Peterman
RBs: Khalil Herbert, Roschon Johnson, D'Onta Foreman, Travis Homer
WRs: D.J. Moore, Darnell Mooney, Chase Claypool, Equanimeous St. Brown, Tyler Scott, Velus Jones Jr., Trent Taylor
TEs: Cole Kmet, Marcedes Lewis, Jake Tonges
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
As ESPN.com's Ben Baby reported, receiver Tee Higgins' only snap Sunday against the Cleveland Browns was an unplanned one, according to head coach Zac Taylor.
Higgins, who was dealing with a right hamstring injury, snuck onto the field for his lone play in Cincinnati's 23-10 victory.
He entered the field for a third-and-7 play on the first offensive drive for either team. Higgins did not play for the remainder of the game.
"He found his way out there the way that some guys do when they want to play when they're a competitor," Taylor said with a smile. "But ultimately, we didn't want him out there."
Higgins' cameo appearance came after Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd suffered a dislocated finger on his right hand. Higgins entered the game as one of four wide receivers with Cincinnati (9-4) looking to extend the drive.
Boyd was later ruled out in the second quarter.
According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, Boyd could miss a week or two, but it shouldn't be an extended absence.
Healing, pain tolerance will dictate when he returns.
Taylor said that the team considers him day-to-day as they head toward a Week 15 date with the Buccaneers.
In addition to the injuries to their wide receivers, the Bengals also saw pass-rusher Trey Hendrickson suffer a broken wrist on Sunday, a source told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, confirming an NFL Network report. The source said Hendrickson should be back for the playoffs and might require a cast while the bone heals.
As for Higgins, the first sign of his injury came in the middle of the week, when he popped up on the team's injury report with a hamstring issue. He was a limited participant on Thursday and Friday. However, the team didn't give him an injury designation on Friday's game status report, indicating no potential issues for Sunday's game in Cincinnati.
About an hour before the 1 p.m. kickoff, Taylor said the team received information that the hamstring was still an issue for Higgins.
At that point, Taylor said Higgins was viewed as questionable to play but no official injury designation was given.
"We didn't want him to open up and run," Taylor said. "That doesn't mean he couldn't run a goal-line fade on the 1-yard line. There was no sense in ruling him out. I didn't see any reason to do that.
"He obviously felt he could play. There were some plays we still had highlighted for him. I was hoping the game would go in our favor to where we would not need to use that."
Taylor's hopes came to fruition. After a slow start, the Bengals opened up a lead over the Browns (5-8) that eventually ballooned to a 20-3 advantage in the second half. Cleveland flirted with making the game competitive in the fourth quarter but was unable to make it a one-score contest.
With Higgins and Boyd out, Cincinnati relied on Ja'Marr Chase, Trent Taylor and Trenton Irwin as its primary receivers. Chase had 10 catches for 119 yards and a touchdown. Irwin also caught a touchdown pass.
"It was a constant conversation for four quarters for how that affects the game plan," Taylor said of losing Boyd and Higgins.
The fourth-year coach did not have an immediate update on each player's long-term prognosis.
With the win, Cincinnati snapped a five-game losing skid to Cleveland that dates back to 2019 and kept the Bengals tied with the Baltimore Ravens atop the AFC North standings.
In the end, Joe Burrow did enough offensively, and the Bengals' defense stepped up to end the Browns' recent domination of the Battle of Ohio.
Burrow was 9 for 21 for 110 yards in the first half, including a 15-yard TD to Chase. In the third quarter, Burrow found Irwin for an easy 45-yard scoring pass when the Browns bit on a flea-flicker.
Chase had 10 receptions for 119 yards in his second game back since missing a month with a hip fracture.
The Bengals quarterback finished 18 for 33 for 239 yards and threw a fourth-quarter interception. Joe Mixon, who missed the last two games with a concussion, rushed for 96 yards, including a 40-yard breakaway on a drive that led to a Cincinnati field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter.
"In that first quarter, I wasn't playing very well, I was missing throws," Burrow said. "I settled in there in the second half of the second quarter, and from there we really moved the ball really well. The run game was good to us. Ja'Marr was incredible like he always is."
Again, the Bengals will visit Tampa Bay Sunday to take on the Buccaneers.
I'll obviously be keeping a close eye on the status of Boyd and Higgins, both of whom were present and in uniform for the start of Wednesday's practice, in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
It's a tall order to ask that Taylor and Irwin to fill in long term for Boyd and Higgins, who along with Chase form one of the best WR trios in the league.
In addition, Hayden Hurst missed Sunday's game with a calf injury and it's not clear if he'll return this week; Zac Taylor characterized Hurst as doubtful on Wednesday.
Mitchell Wilcox will continue to start at tight end if Hurst can't go. ...
Also. ... In Mixon's first game back from a two-week absence, he played 59 percent of Cincinnati's offensive snaps. That's his lowest snap share in a completed game all season.
As LateRound.com's JJ Zachariason noted, Samaje Perine ran one more route than Mixon did Sunday. Perine managed to score a touchdown on a fairly narrow band of opportunities -- four carries and one catch (on five targets).
Perine will still have a role, but Mixon is the undisputed starter. ...
You can access complete stats for the Bengals Week 14 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Joe Burrow, Jake Browning
RBs: Joe Mixon, Chase Brown, Trayveon Williams, Chris Evans
WRs: Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Andrei Iosivas, Trenton Irwin, Kwamie Lassiter II, Charlie Jones
TEs: Irv Smith Jr., Drew Sample, Mitchell Wilcox
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
As Associated Press sports writer Jeff Wallner reminded readers, Deshaun Watson had an unspectacular season debut in the Browns' Week 13 win over the Texans.
He was better on Sunday, but the Browns' playoff hopes all but vanished with a 23-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.
And perhaps it was unrealistic for Cleveland to pin those hopes on a quarterback who, for all his talent, hadn't played since the final game of the 2020 season.
Watson returned last week after an 11-game suspension resulting from accusations by more than two dozen women that he sexually harassed or assaulted them during massage therapy sessions.
On Sunday, he completed 26 of 42 passes for 276 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also had 33 of the Browns' 71 rushing yards.
Watson threw for 131 yards with no touchdowns and a pick the week before, but the Browns' defense bailed them out at NFL-worst Houston.
Watson said the rust will continue to come off each week, but it's likely the games will become less meaningful for Cleveland.
"The game is going to continue to speed up for myself, the process, the game plan," Watson said. "Each week just needs to get better. Today was another learning lesson. Just need to continue to improve. The progress is always taking one step forward."
The Browns (5-8) trail the first-place Bengals and Ravens by four games in the AFC North with four games to play. They are two games out of the final wild-card playoff spot.
Watson did not have a fully healthy Amari Cooper on Sunday. The veteran receiver was active after testing his injured hip during warmups. Cooper was targeted seven times, but had just two catches for 42 yards.
"You could see it here and there," Watson said. "Certain routes we called, he wasn't 100 percent. I just needed to keep trusting him."
It was a mixed bag for Watson.
He completed his first four passes of the game. The Browns opted to bring in backup Jacoby Brissett on fourth-and-1, but his deep pass into the end zone fell incomplete. Watson said he had no problem with the decision.
"Me and Jacoby have a great relationship," Watson said. "When I was away for 11 games, I was supporting him, calling him, texting him. He's helping me out in different situations."
Watson completed 8 of 12 passes in the first half and 18 of 30 after halftime with the Browns trailing.
"He had some really good moments, and made some plays," Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said. "Some plays that I know he wants back. I thought he lost vision and was late with the throw (on the interception). But I thought there were some good moments."
In the third quarter, Watson threw a 13-yard TD pass to David Njoku. Then, with a Bengals defender holding his legs, he completed a 16-yard pass to Cooper for a first down.
"He's getting more comfortable," Cooper said. "That's every player. As the game goes on, you get into a rhythm."
His next pass after Cooper's catch was intercepted by Jessie Bates. Watson blamed himself.
"It was there for a second, but I was late," Watson said. "We had a post going. The backside safety Bates cut it a little bit. Me being on the other hash, I probably should have taken the check down. Bates made a great play. Every turnover is disappointing."
After converting a fourth down with a scramble during a fourth-quarter drive, Watson's pass to Donovan Peoples-Jones was incomplete in the end zone, ending a 15-play possession with no points.
That drive summed up the day for the Browns, who had beaten the Bengals in five straight meetings, including a 32-13 rout on Halloween with Brissett at QB.
The 30-year-old Brissett is now on the bench in favor of Watson, who was signed to a five-year, $230 million deal despite the sexual misconduct allegations.
"This is a process," Watson said. "My mindset is just to be 1-0 this week against Baltimore. We get paid to do this job. I just want to win. After 11 games, I'm trying to get my groove back."
As ESPN.com's Jake Trotter put it, "The Browns have scored one offensive TD with Watson at quarterback. One. After its eighth loss, Cleveland is likely out of the playoff conversation. Getting its $230 million franchise passer acclimated is all this lost season figures to be about now. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... The Browns' run game was slowed to just 71 total yards Sunday, their second-lowest in a game this year.
Rushing holes were hard to find for Nick Chubb, whose 34 rushing yards were also the second-lowest total of his season.
After a hot first half of the season, the Browns' run game has gone cold compared to its usual standards with Chubb and Kareem Hunt. Chubb has eclipsed 100 yards just once since the Week 9 bye week and has averaged four yards per attempt in that span.
Stefanski said the slow game Sunday was due to a well-designed game plan from the Bengals, who now boast the 11th-best rushing defense in the league.
"It is always a combination of things," Stefanski said. "I think first, like I told you guys yesterday, you have to give them credit. They did a nice job. They won a few of their one-on-one matchups yesterday. That is historically a front and a scheme that we have had some success in the run game with utilizing some of those schemes.
It didn't happen yesterday, so we have to make sure that we look at it and things that we will do differently next time. ..."
As LateRound.com's JJ Zachariason noted, Peoples-Jones had seen seven total targets over his two games prior to Week 14.
From Weeks 11 through 13, his target share had fallen to just 13.6 percent per game. Sunday, he saw 12 targets against Cincinnati, making up a 31 percent target share.
In addition, Njoku saw nine targets and a 23 percent target share against the Bengals. Zachariason notes Njoku has dipped below an 18 percent target share in just two of his last nine games. ...
Finally. ... Stefanski said Cooper would be day to day due to his hip injury. Cooper told reporters in a Tuesday news conference that he intends to be available as much as he can.
"It's getting better. Just a part of playing football in this league," Cooper said, via 92.3 The Fan. "Obviously, it was a hindrance any time you're not 100 percent, but just try to be available for your team."
"Just the availability aspect. ... I want to be available for my team. Just want to be accountable. That's it," Cooper added.
Cooper and David Bell (thumb/toe) did not practice Tuesday; I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
You can access complete stats for the Browns Week 14 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Deshaun Watson, Dorian Thompson-Robinson
RBs: Jerome Ford, Kareem Hunt, Pierre Strong Jr., Nick Chubb
WRs: Amari Cooper, Elijah Moore, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Cedric Tillman, Marquise Goodwin, David Bell, Michael Woods II, Anthony Schwartz, Jakeem Grant
TEs: David Njoku, Jordan Akins, Harrison Bryant
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
According to ESPN.com's Todd Archer, Dak Prescott had to say the number twice, as if the quarterback didn't believe it or was disgusted by it.
"Nine?" he said. "Niiiiiine?"
Nine interceptions in eight starts.
Prescott saved the Cowboys on Sunday with a 98-yard drive in the final minutes to beat the Houston Texans 27-23. He completed 6 of 7 passes for 79 yards on the drive before Ezekiel Elliott's game-winning rushing touchdown with 41 seconds to play.
The only incompletion was a drop by Michael Gallup after he took a big hit in the end zone.
But what about the first 57 minutes of the game?
Prescott had two more passes intercepted, giving him nine on the season.
He has more in eight starts this season than he had in 16 starts in 2016 (four) and 2018 (eight). He had 10 passes picked off in 16 starts last season.
"Yeah, I'm damn sure not a fan of that," Prescott said. "I think y'all guys know that. It's frustrating. It's very, very frustrating."
As Archer explained, each interception has its own story, and certainly not all are on Prescott. Some have been miscommunications with his pass-catchers, especially down the middle of the field. Some have come at inopportune times. Some have come from protection breakdowns. And some have come from Prescott's decision-making.
He took the blame for the first one against Houston, looking for receiver Noah Brown with a Texans defender running underneath the throw, leading to a tipped ball that Tremon Smith picked off. It was Prescott's eighth first-half interception of the season, tying him with Indianapolis' Matt Ryan for the most in the first halves.
And remember, Prescott missed five games with a broken thumb.
"Tried to fit it into too tight of a window," Prescott said. "I don't even know if Noah even saw it, you know what I mean? Tried to get a hand on the ball, pops up in the air."
On the second one, Texans pass-rusher Ogbonnia Okoronkwo hit Prescott's hand as he looked to dump the ball wide to tight end Dalton Schultz.
It was his first second-half interception of the season, but the Cowboys' defense gave Prescott a chance to win the game with a goal-line stand after the turnover. Maybe it was a coincidence, but the Cowboys replaced Josh Ball at right tackle with Jason Peters after that play.
Head coach Mike McCarthy said the Texans played a different type of zone coverage than they had normally shown.
That led to more bodies in different avenues who Prescott had to throw over or around. The result was 11 tipped passes and the two interceptions. And McCarthy expects more of that type of coverage.
"If I was the Jacksonville defensive coordinator, I'd play a vision defense based off the last two weeks," McCarthy said of their Week 15 tilt with the Jacksonville Jaguars. "That's how my mind works and that's why we'll look at it. We'll just make sure we're clean in what we do. We don't need to change plays. We just got to be cleaner about doing things."
When he coached the Green Bay Packers, McCarthy dealt with Brett Favre's gunslinger ways, but he also mentored Aaron Rodgers, who had only two seasons in which he threw more than eight interceptions under McCarthy -- both in his first three years as the starter.
"When you're in the NFL, you don't throw to open receivers, you throw them open," McCarthy said last week. "And you're not going to get there by not being aggressive. Particularly as you get into the tougher defenses. ... That's why the breaking points of your routes and angles have to be more precise. And [Prescott] has to throw with aggressiveness. I think anticipation, awareness, all those things are tied together. You have to have that because these situations we are going to be in, they're only going to get tougher. They are not going to get easier. This is part of that growth."
The growth needs to become evident with four regular-season games remaining -- three against teams currently in the playoffs.
Prescott has interceptions in five of his past six games, his most since he had six in Weeks 2-5 of the 2019 season.
"We've got to find a way -- I've got to find a way -- to take better care of the ball," Prescott said. "Yeah, damn right it's frustrating. That's not something that I've ever been OK with and never will be OK with. So, but I'm not going to not be aggressive. As I've said. I've worked too hard. This team has worked too hard, created too great of a chemistry for me to, yeah, to not be aggressive and not try to make the throws that I know I can make. But damn sure got to be smarter and just weigh the risk versus the reward in a split second. That's just my preparation.
"That's something that I promise I'll clean up."
Meanwhile, Prescott said Sunday's close win would be more beneficial in the long run than a blowout.
"This will serve us more than I think the Minnesota game or even the way that we finished last game when it comes down to it because we're going to play some tough games as we get going," he said. "You got to play games like [this], one-score games here in the back end against our division or whether it be the playoffs. Just for us to have that confidence and trust in one another and continue to tighten our bond is something that we're going to need."
It's all well and good to spin positive, but against most any other team, the Cowboys would have taken an L. Dallas (10-3) knows it can't play like it did Sunday to have any chance at succeeding in the postseason. And now, they're running out of time to catch NFL-leading Philadelphia in the NFC East.
They're two games back with four to go. The Eagles won the first meeting. The rematch is in two weeks, on Christmas Eve.
Other notes of interest. ... It took 11 months, but T.Y. Hilton is back in the NFL for a chance to pursue a title.
The veteran receiver has joined the Cowboys.
Hilton visited the team on Monday and liked what he saw enough to join the Cowboys with just one month left in the regular season.
"Great addition," said McCarthy, who added Hilton has a chance to play this Sunday versus the Jaguars. "We'll get him out there Wednesday and get him acclimated. ... He had a workout. Everything passed with flying colors. The timing is right. He's ready to go."
The 33-year-old receiver last played in 2021 with the Colts, the only team he'd known until signing with Dallas.
After starting last season on injured reserve, Hilton returned in mid-October, catching 23 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns in 10 games.
Hilton patiently waited for another opportunity as a free agent, remaining without a team until the final month of the 2022 regular season. He joins a Dallas team that has been interested in adding a receiver for most of 2022, exploring trade options before the deadline and recently engaging in a drawn-out courtship with Odell Beckham Jr.
With just four weeks left to get a new receiver up to speed, it appears the Cowboys have moved on from Beckham in favor of Hilton, a receiver who is ready to go now. He'll enter a receivers room headlined by CeeDee Lamb and Michael Gallup, with Noah Brown, Jalen Tolbert, James Washington and returner KaVontae Turpin also on the roster.
Hilton is past his peak performance, but brings with him plenty of winning experience from his time spent in Indianapolis. We'll see if the four-time Pro Bowler can make a quick impact for the NFL's 10th-ranked offense.
Meanwhile, LateRound.com's JJ Zachariason points out that CeeDee Lamb failed to score 10 PPR points Sunday for just the third time this year. His 8 points were his second-lowest of the season. His 15.4 percent target share was a season low.
Schultz had a drop on a hard hit at the goal line to force Dallas to settle for a field goal late in the first half, but he had three catches for 52 yards on the winning drive to give him a season-high 87 yards for the game. Beyond that, Schultz had a 26 percent target share. As Zachariason notes, that's back to back games with a 20 percent target share.
Also according to Zachariason, Tony Pollard played six more snaps than Elliott.
Last week, Elliott led Pollard by 10 snaps, but Pollard has led Zeke in snaps in three of four games since Elliott returned from injury.
Still, both were top-10 fantasy producers at their position Sunday. ...
According to Associated Press sports writer Schuyler Dixon, kicker Brett Maher is quietly putting together possibly his best season after coming to training camp late when a kicking competition fizzled. He's 21 of 24, with two of the misses from at least 50 yards.
His 53-yarder early in the fourth quarter kept the Cowboys within three with a potential upset looming, and took some of the pressure off the final drive by not making a TD mandatory.
Kick returner KaVontae Turpin fumbled a punt when it appeared Dallas would take control of the game early. Then he let a punt bounce that he should have caught around the Dallas 7-yard line, pinning the Cowboys at their 1. Prescott's interception came soon after before a defensive stop and the winning TD drive. ...
On the injury front. ... Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said that the team feared a serious injury for right tackle Terence Steele after he left their win over the Texans and word on Monday is that Steele will miss the rest of the season.
According to multiple reports, tests showed that Steele suffered a torn ACL during Sunday's game.
The Cowboys initially turned to Josh Ball against the Texans, but veteran Jason Peters took over after Ball struggled with the Houston pass rush. He provided better protection during Dallas' game-winning touchdown drive.
Tackle Tyron Smith returned to practice with the Cowboys last week. The team's plan has been to put him back at left tackle with rookie Tyler Smith moving inside to left guard, but it's unclear if he'll be activated this week.
Well, Jerry Jones seems to think it's clear.
"As I see it right now, he'll be playing Sunday," Jones said, via Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News.
DE Dorance Armstrong was in a walking boot after the Houston game, and CB Trevon Diggs had to be treated for a thumb injury but returned. S Jayron Kearse injured a knee during warmups but played.
You can access complete stats for the Cowboys Week 14 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Trey Lance
RBs: Tony Pollard, Rico Dowdle, Deuce Vaughn, Hunter Luepke
WRs: CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, Michael Gallup, KaVontae Turpin, Jalen Tolbert, Jalen Brooks
TEs: Jake Ferguson, Luke Schoonmaker, Peyton Hendershot
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
In a season that has had almost nothing on offense go according to plan, Russell Wilson now will deal with a concussion that could impact if, or how much, he plays over the team's final four games of the season.
Wilson was forced to leave Sunday's 34-28 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at Empower Field at Mile High after he was slammed to the turf at the end of a 13-yard scramble with 11 minutes, 45 seconds left to play.
He was checked for a possible concussion and soon thereafter was ruled out.
"(He was) putting his body on the line, man. We can say all we want -- we're 3-9, they're 9-3 and the guy is out there battling his ass off, trying to win the game," backup quarterback Brett Rypien said. "That to me is somebody I want to follow."
Head coach Nathaniel Hackett said after the game that Wilson is formally in the league's concussion protocol.
The Broncos, who had trailed 27-0 in the second quarter, were trying to make it a one-score game when Wilson was injured. On a third-and-11 from the Chiefs' 16-yard line, Wilson pulled the ball down and scampered to the 2.
On the tackle by Kansas City cornerback L'Jarius Sneed, Wilson's helmet impacted the ground with his face down. He stayed there for a few moments and appeared woozy when the team's medical staff helped him to the sideline. He was taken to the injury tent on the sideline and then to the Broncos' locker room.
"He was fighting the whole game," Hackett said.
Wilson, who was 23-of-36 passing for 247 yards and three touchdowns, had found some much-needed production as he helped power a Broncos comeback that began just before halftime. Down 27-0, Denver intercepted Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes on back-to-back drives in the final two minutes of the first half and turned both turnovers into touchdowns -- with Wilson hitting Jerry Jeudy on each.
Wilson threw his third TD pass on the Broncos' first possession of the second half when a screen to running back Marlon Mack turned into a 66-yard catch-and-run score. It was Wilson's first game with three passing TDs for the Broncos in a season during which he and the offense have struggled mightily to construct scoring drives.
The Broncos entered the game with the league's lowest-scoring offense at 13.8 points per game. Sunday marked their highest point total of the season as Wilson had entered the game with eight touchdown passes in the Broncos' first 12 games. But it still amounted to Denver's eighth loss of the season by seven or fewer points, as the team was officially eliminated from playoff contention.
"Everybody had a choice on how they wanted to continue that game," Hackett said. "And they didn't blink. ... We've got to finish, we had opportunities to continually win that game. ... We want to win that game and we had a chance to."
Rypien threw a touchdown pass to Jeudy to close out the drive on which Wilson was injured but was intercepted later in the fourth quarter. He finished the game 4-of-8 passing for 16 yards and the score as the Broncos have now lost 14 consecutive games to the Chiefs dating to September 2015, when Peyton Manning was their quarterback.
"Yeah, man, frustrating, frustrated I didn't get it done," Rypien said. "Seeing how hard Russ fought, how hard our offense fought."
Because he is in the league's concussion protocol, Wilson will have to achieve several benchmarks to first return to practice and then to play in a game, including exams from an independent physician. With four games left in the season, starting with next Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals in Denver, the question will be how much time Wilson might miss.
"We're going to do everything the way that the medical doctors say, the independent doctors," Hackett said on Monday. "His safety is the No. 1 biggest priority for us. So we want to be sure we do what's right for him."
Hackett said he saw Wilson on Monday and that while Wilson "felt great," they will still ensure that he's healthy before Wilson returns to the field, whenever that may be.
"Right now, we're just concerned for his safety," Hackett said. "We want to make sure that he's healthy. So we'll take that day by day and continually talk to our medical team and to Russell."
The status of starting wide receiver Courtland Sutton may also be up in the air as the Broncos continue to be cautious with a hamstring injury he suffered in Week 13 against Baltimore.
"We're going to take that day by day when it comes to his status," Hackett said. "I want to talk with the medical team. ... With it being a hamstring, those things are different for everybody, so we want to be sure that we're smart with him."
Fellow wide receiver Kendall Hinton is also dealing with a hamstring injury after Sunday's game, but Hackett said the team is still working through its evaluation of the injury's severity.
For the record, Wilson, Sutton and Hinton were all absent for the start of Wednesday's practice.
Needless to say, I'll be following the progress of Wilson and all involved in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
The Broncos host the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday, who will be playing on short rest after facing the Patriots on Monday night -- and without Kyler Murray, who suffered a season-ending torn ACL in that game.
Other notes of interest. ... As noted above, Jeudy caught a career-best three touchdown passes after moving over to flanker with Sutton out. He caught eight passes for 73 yards despite being the focus of the Chiefs secondary.
Jeudy came into the game with just six TD grabs in 36 games.
The trio of TDs came after he bumped an official in the second quarter while arguing that he'd been held. Jeudy wasn't flagged by line judge Tripp Sutter for the infraction but is in line for a hefty fine. Hackett didn't see the bump, but was told about it by the officials and addressed it immediately with Jeudy.
"He definitely knew that he was wrong," Hackett said. "That's unacceptable. You can't do that."
Jeudy said he was "out there playing with frustration wanting to make a play for my team. I feel like at that point, I was just held and that should've been called. But I have to know how to control my anger and just move on. ..."
Fantasy managers might give Jeudy some leeway. As LateRound.com's JJ Zachariason pointed out this week, Jeudy has averaged 19 PPR points per game over his last four completed games. ...
For the record, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports that the league will not suspend Jeudy in response to his conduct, which also included removing his helmet while approaching and yelling at the official on the field before making contact.
Those actions could also have drawn penalty flags while league rules say "unnecessary physical contact with a game official" should result in disqualification.
Pelissero adds that Jeudy is set to receive fines for the multiple violations. ...
The Broncos are set to host the Cardinals on Sunday and it appears Jeudy will be in the lineup to help them try to end a five-game losing streak.
Finally. ... Hackett said that running back Mike Boone's ankle injury may rule him out for the final four games of the season.
And that's exactly what happened.
The Broncos announced that Boone was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday.
Boone's move to injured reserve means that none of the running backs from the Broncos' initial 53-man roster remain on active duty. Javonte Williams has been on injured reserve for some time while Melvin Gordon was released.
Latavius Murray and Mack are the backs currently on the active roster in Denver.
Mack's 66-yard touchdown catch was the longest of his career and the longest by a Broncos running back since Kapri Bibbs' 69-yarder against the Raiders in 2016.
It's possible Mack will continue to have a role with Boone out. ...
Finally. ... According to 9News.com's Mike Klis, with Sutton and Hinton both ailing, the Broncos are signing receiver Freddie Swain off Dolphins’ practice squad. Swain played with Wilson in Seattle previous two years and had 38 catches for 502 yards with six TDs. ...
You can access complete stats for the Broncos Week 14 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Jarrett Stidham
RBs: Javonte Williams, Samaje Perine, Jaleel McLaughlin
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Brandon Johnson, Marvin Mims Jr., Lil'Jordan Humphrey
TEs: Adam Trautman, Chris Manhertz, Greg Dulcich
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
According to ESPN.com's Eric Woodyard, as the Lions continue to climb into the playoff picture, quarterback Jared Goff hasn't forgotten about the naysayers.
Shortly after Detroit's 34-23 victory against the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, Goff refused to get carried away with the moment, but certainly kept receipts of his doubters, who criticized the team's poor start.
"It feels good. It makes me feel like we're making a lot of people eat what they said, mostly," said Goff, who threw for 330 yards and three touchdowns. "We know who we are and we know what we can do."
After a 1-6 start, the Lions have won five of their past six games and are pushing for a playoff spot for the first time since 2016. If that happens, Detroit will join the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals as the only teams in NFL history to start 1-6 or worse through seven games and still reach the postseason.
Goff couldn't pinpoint exactly where the switch occurred with this team, but acknowledged that it starts from the top with head coach Dan Campbell's consistent demeanor, during high and low moments.
"Yeah, things sucked early on obviously and who knows how long that could've lasted, but we trusted ourselves, trusted the work we put in, trusted Dan and trusted the coaching staff and we're almost back to .500 now and who would've thought that at 1-6," Goff said. "We've got a long way to go, but with that being said, we're 6-7 and the reality is we still have to win quite a few games to get to the playoffs.
"Sure, we're doing a lot of good things right now, but we have four more and if we can win all of them, I'm sure we'll have a great chance, but we'll see how it goes."
Meanwhile, Tim Twentyman of the team's official website asked, is there a quarterback in the NFC outside of Philadelphia's Jalen Hurts who is playing better football than Goff right now?
Goff completed 69 percent of his passes for 330 yards with three touchdowns and no turnovers for a 120.7 passer rating in the win over the Vikings Sunday. Over Detroit's current 5-1 stretch, Goff has completed 131-of-172 passes (76 percent) for 1,448 yards with 10 touchdowns and 1 interception, which is good for a 117.6 rating,
Indeed, entering the week, Goff believed he was playing the best football of his entire career.
What's behind it?
Associated Press sports writer Dave Hogg contends that last season, the Lions didn't know how to use Goff. The quarterback who led the NFL with an average of 12.9 yards per completion in 2017 and matched that total in 2018, was reduced to 3- or 4-yard throws to running backs and tight ends.
If the play call was for something downfield, the offensive line didn't give him time -- he was sacked a career-high 35 times and averaged less than 10 yards per completion.
Things got better in the second half of the season after Campbell took over play-calling duties from fired offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn, but he still didn't look like the quarterback who had taken the Rams to a Super Bowl.
This year, with new offensive coordinator Ben Johnson calling the plays and Amon-Ra St. Brown turning into one of the league's most versatile receivers, Goff has returned to his Los Angeles form. He's averaging 11.6 yards per completion and has already thrown for more yards (3,352) and touchdowns (22) than he did last year.
And now Campbell says the team goes as far as Goff performs.
Based on what we've seen to date, that might be far.
The Lions have put up 74 points and 902 yards in the last two games while allowing 37 points and 682 yards. In fact, the offense has scored at least 30 points in seven games this year, which has tied the 2011 Lions squad for the most points in a season in franchise history.
For the first time since Jim Caldwell was coaching the team, the offense and defense are playing well at the same time.
Detroit's overall confidence is surging while limiting costly mistakes.
"Our guys, they know they belong. They know they belong and they know when they play football like we've been playing the last six weeks, we can play with anybody," Campbell said. "That's the truth."
Campbell said he felt "drained" after the latest win as he's pushing to change the losing narrative attached to the Lions franchise.
Neither Goff nor Campbell admitted to being satisfied with their overall record, but they didn't overlook that things are going well with better decision-making and defensive adjustments.
After Sunday's win, the Lions increased their playoff chances from 5 percent to 10 percent, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
Lions offensive tackle Taylor Decker has been adamant that these aren't the "same old Lions" of years past who would often blow key games.
"It's about as good as it's felt in my entire career here, about as confident as we've ever been," Decker said. "We're just meeting challenges head-on, week in, week out meeting challenges head-on. It just feels good. I've spoken about it before when we had a couple of wins, really early where it kind of just validates the work that we put in. Kind of reinforces the fact we're doing the right thing."
Next up, the Lions travel to New York for a game with the Jets.
Per Hogg, the Lions need to come up with a plan to stop Garrett Wilson and whichever Jets quarterback is healthy enough -- likely Mike White -- to throw him the ball. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Lions have been looking for a big-play receiver all season, and two stepped up Sunday.
Jameson Williams was drafted to be that player, even after sustaining a torn ACL in last year's College Football Playoff championship game, and his first NFL catch went for a 41-yard touchdown.
After Williams tore an ACL in the national championship game with Alabama, the Lions were extremely patient with his recovery process.
The organization sees him blossoming into one of the faces of the team for many years to come. So Woodyard doesn't think they'll put too much pressure on Williams this season to become the preferred deep-ball threat, but he'll certainly be getting opportunities -- which became apparent with Sunday's scoring grab.
Later, D.J. Chark caught a 48-yard touchdown -- exactly why the Lions signed him as a free agent in March.
Trying to figure out the pecking order for this backfield?
As LateRound.com's JJ Zachariason noted on Sunday, D'Andre Swift was up over a 50 percent snap share in Week 13. Sunday, it fell back to 33 percent. Jamaal Williams played 38 percent of Detroit's snaps, which was a little higher than last week's 30 percent. Justin Jackson went from a 21 percent snap share last week to a 30 percent share this week.
On the injury front. ... The Lions are as healthy as possible in mid-December and got Romeo Okwara on the field Sunday for the first time this season. Okwara had 10 sacks in 2020, but tore his Achilles' tendon in the fourth game last year and had been out since.
You can access complete stats for the Lions Week 14 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Jared Goff, Teddy Bridgewater
RBs: Jahmyr Gibbs, David Montgomery, Craig Reynolds, Zonovan Knight
WRs: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond, Marvin Jones, Antoine Green, Jameson Williams
TEs: Sam LaPorta, Brock Wright, James Mitchell
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
The Green Bay Packers are playing to win in the present, even if their NFC playoff chances are slim.
Fact-finding about their younger players -- including backup quarterback Jordan Love -- can wait, general manager Brian Gutekunst insisted this week. He said he doesn't want the team's final four games to serve as auditions for Love and other inexperienced players who could be vital to the team's future.
Although the Packers entered their long-awaited bye week at 5-8 following a 28-19 victory over Chicago, they are still alive in the NFC playoff chase.
While the Minnesota Vikings came up short in their effort to clinch the NFC North title by losing to the Detroit Lions, the Packers would finish 9-8 if they can win out, beginning with their "Monday Night Football" post-bye matchup at home against the fading Los Angeles Rams (currently 3-9).
The defending Super Bowl champions have shut down quarterback Matthew Stafford for the rest of the year because of a spinal cord contusion.
After the Rams, the Packers travel to face Miami, then return home for a Jan. 1 matchup with the Vikings and a Jan. 9 regular-season finale against the Lions.
"We were certainly expected to be competing for a championship -- and we are still in it, if we're able to dig our way back into this thing," Gutekunst said. "We still kind of feel like we have the ability to do that. But this season has not gone as we expected."
As the Associated Press noted this week, despite trading away All-Pro wide receiver Davante Adams in March, the Packers believed they still had a Super Bowl contender, led by what they thought would be one of the NFL's elite defenses and the back-to-back reigning NFL MVP, quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Instead, the defense has been such a disappointment that there are questions about whether coordinator Joe Barry will be fired at season's end. Rodgers has struggled both with injuries (a broken right thumb, injured ribs) and with the inexperienced pass-catching targets around him.
Even with rookie second-round pick Christian Watson scoring eight touchdowns over the past four games, Rodgers enters the final stretch having thrown nine interceptions (the most he's had in a season since he threw 11 during the team's Super Bowl-winning season of 2010) and with a passer rating of 92.4, which would be his lowest in 15 years as a starter.
With Rodgers' injuries, the team's long-shot playoff chances and Love's strong showing in 10 fourth-quarter snaps against Philadelphia two weeks ago, it would make sense to take a look at Love and other youngsters during the final month.
Even Rodgers himself acknowledged the possibility of not playing once the team is eliminated from playoff contention, although in 2018, after the firing of Mike McCarthy with four games left to play, Rodgers still started all four games before suffering a concussion in the season finale against Detroit.
"Look, I'd love to finish the season out. But I understand this is a business," Rodgers said. "There's a lot of us older guys who play a decent amount and they might want to see some younger guys play.
"Hopefully, we don't have to have that conversation. But if that conversation comes up, I'll approach that with an open mind and without any bitterness or resentment," he said.
Asked if it would make sense to not play just to rest up and heal from his injuries in advance of next season, the 39-year-old Rodgers, who has yet to say whether he's planning to play in 2023, replied: "I mean, that's an assumption that this place won't look any different next year. Again, that's part of the conversation."
Gutekunst, though, said he believes the coaches and the personnel staff have seen enough of Love in practice and in his limited regular-season playing time to know what he's capable of doing.
"We're really pleased with his progression and what he's been able to do," Gutekunst said of Love. "I think from our end of it, we've seen what we need to see."
Gutekunst also implied that Rodgers and other veterans still may play even if the Packers are out of contention -- in part because he believes winning matters, even if a postseason berth is unattainable.
"I think winning's a culture thing," Gutekunst said. ""I just think that's what this place has always been about. And at least while I'm here it's always going to be. ..."
For what it's worth, the Packers got back to work after their bye week on Tuesday and Rodgers said he's feeling healthier than he was when they were last on the field.
As noted above, Rodgers has been dealing with a right thumb injury for most of the season and he injured his ribs last month, but he remained in the starting lineup. Reporters at the open portion of Tuesday's practice noted that Rodgers was working without any tape or other protection on the thumb and Rodgers offered an update on both injuries during an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show.
"The thumb is doing a lot better. It was nice to have that week off. The ribs are doing better too, I was able to finally start getting some sleep. My body's feeling a lot better. Nobody wants a Week 14 bye, but it always feels good coming back after the bye," Rodgers said.
Rodgers will have a little more time to heal with the Packers set to face the Rams on Monday night and there doesn't seem to be any question about his status for that game.
Receiver Romeo Doubs called it the right decision not to play last week against the Bears and now after the bye he sounded confident he would be a go for Monday vs. the Rams.
He said he ran full speed in the short practice today and had no issues with his ankle, injured on Nov. 6.
Aaron Jones (shin) practiced on Tuesday.
The Packers aren't required to have status reports for their Tuesday practice off a Week 14 bye, but it does sound like most everybody of fantasy interest will be good to go; that said I'll be watching for more in coming days; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for any developments.
QBs: Jordan Love, Sean Clifford
RBs: Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Emanuel Wilson
WRs: Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed, Samori Toure, Dontayvion Wicks, Grant DuBose, Malik Heath
TEs: Luke Musgrave, Tucker Kraft, Josiah Deguara, Tyler Davis, Ben Sims
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
As Associated Press sports writer Kristie Rieken noted, the Houston Texans did a lot of good things Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys.
However, they came up short late with a chance to seal the victory as their skid extended to eight games with a 27-23 loss.
The Texans had a three-point lead when Tremon Smith got his second interception of the game to give them the ball at the Dallas 4 with less than six minutes to go.
With rookie Dameon Pierce out with an ankle injury, Rex Burkhead was stopped for a 1-yard loss on first down. Jeff Driskel, who split time at quarterback with Davis Mills, threw a 4-yard pass to Chris Moore get Houston to the 1 on second down.
But Burkhead lost 2 yards on a run on third down before Driskel was stopped short of the goal line on fourth down to give Dallas the ball back.
"We just didn't execute," head coach Lovie Smith said. "We just didn't execute the way we needed to."
Dak Prescott then led a 98-yard drive, capped by a 2-yard TD run by Ezekiel Elliott to give Dallas the win.
Though the Texans couldn't finish Sunday, Smith was encouraged by improvement he saw from his team.
"There's a different feeling," he said. "I thought we got better (Sunday). I saw progress for sure."
After starting Kyle Allen at quarterback in the previous two games, the Texans returned to Mills on Sunday. But they mixed things up by also using Driskel, who hadn't appeared in a game since September.
Mills threw for 175 yards and Driskel had 38 yards passing with a touchdown and 36 yards rushing.
Smith said the team was searching for a spark and decided on the two-platoon system early last week.
"Where we are, we haven't gotten a whole lot of production offensively," Smith said. "You look at your roster. Jeff has been there. Really, as we go back and look at it a little bit, he did some good things in the preseason early on. That plan kind of got us out of it a little bit when we couldn't elevate him and some things like that, but he's always been there. As you see, the most productive day we've had offensively.
"I know what the points said but we felt like we could move the ball and mix in a combination of the two."
The Texans' struggling offense flipped the script and scored their second-most points of the season (23).
The Texans utilized Driskel for read-option plays to confuse the Cowboys' defense. On his first drive, Pierce scored a rushing touchdown seven plays later.
It was the first time the Texans' offense scored a touchdown in the first quarter since Week 9 against the Philadelphia Eagles on Nov. 3.
"As you see, the most productive day we've had offensively," Smith said. "I know what the points said, but we felt like we could move the ball and mix in a combination of the two."
From that point on, the Texans swapped Driskel and Mills throughout the game, sometimes mid series as both quarterbacks played 32 snaps.
"I was excited to get out there and help the team win and obviously it was not what we wanted to do at the end of the game," Driskel said. "We've just got to execute a few more times and punch the ball in the end zone. But it was good to get back in the game."
In addition to the offensive surge, the Texans forced three turnovers Sunday to help them almost pull off the upset. Smith had the two interceptions and the Texans recovered a fumble on a punt return.
But there's no doubt Houston's offense did better against the Cowboys that it had in the previous two games when Allen committed five turnovers combined.
That said, Mills and Driskel will have to do more to keep the passing game going and finish drives this week, especially if Pierce's injury keeps him out.
The Texans did open the door to continued use of the QB platoon by signing Driskel to the active roster on Wednesday. As ESPN.com's DJ Bien-Aime notes, Driskel has been elevated from the practice squad a maximum three times this season, after doing so in Weeks 1 and 2 also.
But Smith was noncommittal about the two-quarterback system as the Texans prepare to battle the Kansas City Chiefs (10-3) on Sunday.
"I thought it was effective yesterday," Smith said Monday. "Two different flavors, that's always tough for a defense to prepare for. … That's what we did yesterday. No more than that. We'll see exactly what we do that gives us the best chance. We're just transitioning over to the Chiefs right now. So we'll see how that game planning goes."
The Cowboys obviously were caught off guard by the Texans' strategy. The Chiefs won't be.
Indeed, the Texans will have to find a way to finish Sunday against the Chiefs if they hope to avoid losing nine straight games for the first time since dropping the final 14 games of the 2013 season.
Other notes of interest. ... Moore had career highs with 10 catches for 124 yards Sunday after combining for just 73 yards receiving in his previous three games. He also logged a special teams tackle on punt coverage and downed a Cam Johnston punt at the 1-yard line in the fourth quarter.
"Chris was outstanding," Smith said. "Outstanding with his special teams play. Outstanding, of course, as a receiver."
Moore caught a 36-yarder, a 31-yarder and a pair of 18-yarders.
Moore had one other 100-yard game in his seven NFL seasons, and doubled his previous career high of five catches in a game. He explained how his big day came to be.
"I was just getting extra opportunities and making the most of it when my number was called," Moore said. "When the ball came over, I just tried to make a play trying to help this team win."
Those opportunities came with Nico Collins (foot) and Brandin Cooks (calf) sidelined by injuries.
With the regular starters out, Phillip Dorsett payed 52 snaps, Moore got 51, Amari Rodgers was on the field for 34 plays and Jalen Camp took six snaps but was limited by an oblique injury he suffered during the game.
Also on the injury front, Smith sounded unsure of Pierce's availability during his Monday press conference.
"It will take an awful lot for him to not play," Smith said, via Brooks Kubena of the Houston Chronicle. "We'll see."
Smith added he hopes the injury is a short-term issue.
Aaron Wilson of the Pro Football Network reports Pierce suffered a relatively mild high-ankle sprain that is regarded as likely to sideline him for at least one game and possibly two, according to league sources.
High-ankle sprains tend to linger generally, but this isn't regarded as severe.
Pierce has 1,104 yards from scrimmage with five total touchdowns this season. He's rushed for 939 yards with four touchdowns and caught 30 passes for 165 yards with a TD.
The Texans had Burkhead taking the bulk of their snaps at running back after Pierce went out.
I'll have more on Pierce, Cooks and Collins via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
It looks like running back Eno Benjamin's time is up in Houston.
Adam Schefter of ESPN first reported the Texans would waive Benjamin on Tuesday. The move ends a brief stay with the team.
Benjamin was waived by the Cardinals in mid-November and the Texans claimed him the next day. He appeared in two games with the AFC South club and ran three times for one yard in those contests.
Benjamin ran 70 times for 299 yards and two touchdowns in 10 games for the Cardinals before he was cut loose.
Pierce, Burkhead and Dare Ogunbowale are the remaining running backs on the Houston roster.
You can access complete stats for the Texans Week 14 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: C.J. Stroud, Davis Mills, Case Keenum
RBs: Dameon Pierce, Devin Singletary, Mike Boone, Dare Ogunbowale
WRs: Nico Collins, Robert Woods, John Metchie III, Tank Dell, Xavier Hutchinson, Noah Brown
TEs: Dalton Schultz, Teagan Quitoriano, Brevin Jordan
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
According to Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot, the Indianapolis Colts thought they'd be contemplating their playoff possibilities during their bye week.
Instead, a disastrous season has them on the verge of being mathematically eliminated.
They've changed quarterbacks twice, fired coach Frank Reich, fired offensive coordinator Marcus Brady and are working with a revamped and short-handed staff under interim coach Jeff Saturday. And when Indy returns to work next week, more changes could be coming.
"We're going to look at everything -- no position in particular, but everybody -- and look and see what we think is going to be best," Saturday said following last week's 54-19 drubbing in Dallas. "I told the guys we've got a four-week season. That's almost a quarter of the season, and it's for all the marbles. So we need the best 11 on the field."
After the Colts' ugly loss last week, Saturday said that everything was on the table, including potentially changing quarterbacks.
But no change will happen this week.
Saturday confirmed on Monday that Matt Ryan will start for the Colts against the Vikings on Saturday.
The Colts could consider going back to Sam Ehlinger, who started two games this season, or to Nick Foles, the veteran third-stringer, at some point before the season is over.
But on Saturday in Minnesota, Ryan will continue to start.
Indy (4-8-1) has spent all season searching for that very combination. Nothing's worked.
As Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot recounted it, Ryan, the 2016 league MVP who team owner Jim Irsay thought could finally stop Indy's constantly spinning quarterback carrousel, leads the league with 18 giveaways. He's three short of tying his career high with four games remaining.
NFL rushing champion Jonathan Taylor struggled with an ankle injury and saw his carries dwindle because the low-scoring Colts were playing catchup so often. He's reverted more to the 2021 form as Saturday opted to place more emphasis on the run during his four-game tenure.
Three-time All-Pro linebacker Shaquille Leonard has only played in three games this season -- including one half in a season debut ruined by a collision with teammate Zaire Franklin. He missed three more weeks with a broken nose and appeared in two more games before having his second back surgery since June. He's expected to miss the rest of the season.
Even the traditionally trusty offensive line has scrambled to plug leaks with a mishmash of lineups that have allowed a league-high 46 sacks and dozens more hits.
By early November, Irsay had seen enough. He made his first midseason coaching change since taking the reins from his late father a quarter-century ago and hired Saturday from the broadcast studio even though he no prior coaching experience at the pro or college level.
Now for the first time since taking the job, Saturday was able to catch his breath and contemplate what, if anything, can be fixed before January's season finale.
He's not alone.
"You'd certainly rather have a week where you're coming off a big win in Dallas," center Ryan Kelly said Sunday. "But each guy is going to have to look back and reflect on what he's done so far this year, how he wants the rest of the season to look and the rest of his career to look."
The truth is with four games left, Indy faces another daunting and perhaps tumultuous future.
As Saturday continues adapting to his new job, Irsay has already promised a vigorous coaching search before deciding Saturday's fate.
If Ryan returns, he will cost $35.2 million against the salary cap. If he doesn't, Indy could save $17.2 million but will be looking for its seventh opening-day starter in seven years.
Taylor and receiver Michael Pittman Jr., the Colts' two most reliable offensive players this season, will be entering the final years on their respective rookie contracts.
And as Saturday implores players to continue fighting, fans largely want Indy to play for a higher draft pick so it can finally select Andrew Luck's long-term replacement.
Amid all of it, Saturday continues working toward a brighter future. He has already said rookie left tackle Bernhard Raimann will remain in the starting lineup regardless of mistakes. And less than 12 hours after saying Ryan would remain the starter, Saturday backtracked slightly.
"I'm not looking at Matt any different than anybody else, but yeah we're looking at all of it," he said Monday when asked about potentially benching Ryan again. "We didn't play nearly well enough (Sunday in Dallas), especially at the end. So yeah, we're looking at it all and let's see what we can do to get ourselves a chance to win these games."
All of which leaves one giant question looming over the Colts: What will they look like when they return to the field next week at Minnesota (10-2)?
"You're not changing coaches in the middle of the season if it's not bad, so I knew what I was signing up for," Saturday said. "The effort, the energy, enthusiasm these guys are playing with, they are battling. You talk about a gut check, you talk about, 'We don't quit,' I appreciate those things.
"We're going to find it, we're going to fix it."
A few final notes here. ... Saturday confirmed reports that tight ends coach Klayton Adams is leaving the team immediately in order to become the offensive line coach at Stanford. Adams will be working under new Stanford head coach Troy Taylor.
Adams was in his fourth season with the Colts. He was the assistant offensive line coach for two seasons before moving over to work with tight ends in 2021. He's also coached at several colleges, including the University of Colorado.
Saturday said that assistant offensive line coach Kevin Mawae will assume Adams' responsibilities with tight ends for the remainder of the season.
In addition, Saturday told Indianapolis Star beat writer Joel A. Erickson, Saturday says he's loved coaching and he'd like to coach next year.
"I plan on interviewing (for the Colts job) as long as they want to interview me."
Saturday said he has a vision of what it could look like in the future. We'll see if Jim Irsay shares in that.
QBs: Anthony Richardson, Gardner Minshew, Sam Ehlinger
RBs: Zack Moss, Deon Jackson, Jonathan Taylor, Evan Hull
WRs: Michael Pittman Jr., Alec Pierce, Josh Downs, Isaiah McKenzie
TEs: Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson, Will Mallory, Andrew Ogletree, Jelani Woods
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
According to ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco, it was clearly meant as a joke, but head coach Doug Pederson's response to whether he still has any questions about quarterback Trevor Lawrence is a pretty good indication of how they view the second-year player inside the franchise.
"Other than winning a Super Bowl?" Pederson said, then smiled.
DiRocco went on to explain the Jaguars are light years away from even playing in a Super Bowl -- heck, they're still a pretty long way from even playing .500 football -- but Lawrence's performance on Sunday in the Jaguars' 36-22 victory over the Tennessee Titans at Nissan Stadium is another piece of proof that Jacksonville finally has a franchise quarterback.
Not only did Lawrence set a career high with 368 yards passing, but he also threw three touchdown passes, ran for another, and helped the Jaguars (5-8) snap an eight-game losing streak in Nashville and move into second place in the AFC South -- just two games behind the Titans (7-6). After a week in which he practiced only once because of a left big toe injury.
"You know, I'll tell you this: He's been able to handle everything," Pederson said. "Now he's battling the injury this week and he put the team sort of on his back like he did again today. [That] just shows the type of player and person that he is and how tough he is.
"He's the right leader for us and we're excited to have him as quarterback. The one thing that I'm most encouraged about is just how much more we can pour into him."
Lawrence completed 71 percent of his passes and posted the second-best passer rating of his career (121.9) against the Titans. He also became the youngest player in NFL history to record 350 passing yards, three passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown in a single game (23 years, 66 days) and the first player in franchise history with 300 passing yards, multiple passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in a single game.
Lawrence rallied the Jaguars from a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Baltimore Ravens on a TD pass with 14 seconds to play two weeks ago, but on Sunday he was even better because he had to carry the offense when the run game struggled. Take away the 12 yards on the final possession to close the game, and the Jaguars managed just 48 yards on the ground against the Titans.
Pederson put the game on Lawrence's shoulders, and he delivered.
"You want as a quarterback to play as good as you can, because when your quarterback plays well, it gives you a chance to win every week," Lawrence said. "That's just the nature of what we do in this business, so I understand that. But really just making the plays that are there [is what he did]. Today, guys came through, had some great catches. I mean, you look at [Evan Engram] and [Zay Jones] and [Jamal Agnew].
"Just all over the field, guys making plays, and just cool to see our offense take off like that."
Lawrence made a play himself, too, when he stiff-armed linebacker Dylan Cole on a 1-yard touchdown run in the third quarter. He admitted after the game he probably should have handed the ball off to Travis Etienne Jr. (and replays showed Etienne likely would have walked into the end zone if he had) instead of keeping it.
"The linebacker on the edge stepped down one or two steps and really felt like I could have just outran him to the goal line," Lawrence said. "Luckily got the stiff-arm. He recovered a little better than I thought he would. It's one of those days where we made those plays, and good teams do that. And I think that's where we're heading, and it's exciting."
Lawrence has been rolling since November began.
He leads the NFL in completion percentage (71.8 percent) and is second in passer rating (111.7) and has thrown for 1,362 yards and 10 touchdowns over that span. His last pass in October was intercepted, but since then he has thrown 181 consecutive passes without an interception, which is the second-longest streak in franchise history (David Garrard completed 209 during the 2007 season).
In the aftermath of Sunday's sterling effort, Lawrence earned AFC Offensive Player of the Week for the second time this season.
"He's playing at a high level," Zay Jones said. "You just watch the film, and anyone who really knows football and can see the tape, the kid's playing well."
Well enough to get the Jaguars into the postseason?
Making the playoffs for the first time since 2017 isn't out of the question considering Jacksonville trails reeling Tennessee by two games and plays the Titans again in the regular-season finale.
But first, the Jags will host the Cowboys this Sunday. The Dallas defense will be a great test for Lawrence. ...
Also. ... Lawrence was not on the field for Wednesday's practice, most likely to rest his toe. I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed in coming days. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Engram gambled on himself when he signed a one-year deal with Jacksonville in March.
According to Associated Press sports writer Mark Long, the Jaguars wanted a longer contract with the former New York Giants tight end. But Engram believed he would flourish with a fresh start outside the Big Apple's glaring -- and often harsh -- spotlight, so he took less money in free agency (he got $9 million) in hopes of landing a bigger payday in 2023.
It looks like a safe bet now.
Engram caught 11 passes for a career-high 162 yards and two touchdowns on Sunday. It was Engram's first multi-score game in six NFL seasons, and although it may have been a career outlier, it was a reminder of just how talented the 23rd overall pick in the 2017 draft can be.
"It was a lot of fun," he said. "It's kind of euphoric."
The performance has Engram closing in on a career year as the Jaguars prepare to host Dallas. He has 53 receptions for 548 yards and four scores while becoming one of Lawrence's top options.
Maybe more telling: Engram, who dropped 17 passes the past two seasons combined, has just four drops on 74 targets.
"Once you learn some things mentally that you can apply on the field or in a profession or whatever you do, you kind of learn how to become mentally trained and use it to your advantage," Engram said. "It's a good tool to have. And so as opportunities came. ... That confidence goes up."
Although the Jaguars would love to keep Engram beyond this season, he's likely to test the market, and games such as his latest one surely increase his value.
"You just never know who's going to have the hot hand at times, and he knew he had it there and played tough and made some outstanding catches, made some outstanding plays, and played well," Jaguars coach Doug Pederson said. ...
How hot was Engram's hand in this one?
Engram scored 39 PPR points in Nashville. As LateRound.com's JJ Zachariason noted, Baltimore's star tight end Mark Andrews has scored 43 combined PPR points over his last six games. ...
Meanwhile, the Jaguars have gone four consecutive games without topping 100 yards rushing.
After averaging 176 yards on the ground over a five-game stretch, they've averaged 67 over the past four. They finished with just 60 against the Titans.
Etienne has 134 yards rushing and no touchdowns in Jacksonville's past four games. He ran 17 times for a measly 32 yards against the Titans, averaging 1.9 yards a carry.
According to Long, Etienne is clearly not 100 percent since spraining his left foot against Baltimore.
You can access complete stats for the Jaguars Week 14 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard, Nathan Rourke
RBs: Travis Etienne Jr., Tank Bigsby, JaMycal Hasty, D'Ernest Johnson, Snoop Conner
WRs: Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, Jamal Agnew, Parker Washington, Tim Jones, Kendric Pryor
TEs: Evan Engram, Brenton Strange, Luke Farrell, Elijah Cooks
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
According to Associated Press sports writer Dave Skretta, Andy Reid made it clear Sunday night that he wouldn't simply forget about the uncharacteristic three interceptions that Patrick Mahomes had thrown against the Denver Broncos.
Those turnovers allowed a 27-point lead to nearly evaporate and almost doomed the Kansas City Chiefs to defeat.
Reid just wanted to make sure folks remembered Mahomes' brilliance, too.
There was the no-look, side-arm fling over two closing Broncos defenders that landed softly in the hands of Jerick McKinnon, who took it 56 yards for a touchdown early in the second quarter.
And much later, when things became tense, the throw from the pocket as Mahomes was getting dragged down that found JuJu Smith-Schuster in the end zone.
That touchdown ultimately proved to be the difference in the 34-28 victory.
"Every quarterback that has played in this league for a while has a game like that," Reid said. "The one great thing about him is he kept firing and had a lot of big plays, and so you can't take away the three interceptions, but there sure were some good ones in between those. And it's a great learning experience. But every great one's had that as well. It's one of those days and we were able to work through and everyone kept battling and finished the game."
Mahomes has lamented for weeks the "one dumb play" he seems to make each game.
They're a big reason the Chiefs have had at least one turnover in eight straight games, something Reid has never experienced in his Kansas City tenure.
The turnovers Sunday? Ill-advised throws, to be sure, but also spectacular plays by the Denver defense.
"I promise you," Mahomes said, "I know I'm messing up. When I go to the sidelines, I'm hot. Those coaches come to me and they know I understand, but they still let me know what I can get better at. I just cannot put our team in that situation."
Maybe the Chiefs (10-3) can survive them against the Broncos, who fell to 3-10 with the loss.
Maybe they could against the Texans, whom they visit this Sunday. But probably not against the Seahawks the following week.
Almost certainly not against anyone in the postseason.
The Chiefs remain tied with the Bills for the AFC's best record, but Buffalo has the head-to-head tiebreaker with four games to go.
So the pressure is on Kansas City to clean up those mistakes if it wants to earn that lone first-round playoff bye.
"You are not going to play your best football every week," Mahomes said, "but how can you build on your past week for the rest of the season to make sure you are playing your best football when the playoffs come around?"
Meanwhile, as the team prepares to take on the Texans, it's worth taking a moment to reflect on Travis Kelce's accomplishments.
Kelce became the fifth tight end in league history to reach 10,000 receiving yards during the win over the Broncos. Kelce joins Tony Gonzalez, Shannon Sharpe, Antonio Gates, and Jason Witten in that group.
None of the other four players reached 10,000 yards faster than Kelce, however.
Sunday was the 140th game of Kelce's career and the previous record belonged to Gonzalez, who reached 10,000 yards in his 177th game.
"Honestly right now, the win means more than any of those stats," Kelce said, via Jesse Newell of the Kansas City Star. "Everybody's kind of been talking about me getting those stats at some point this year, so I mean, it was on everybody's radar. But to come up here and get a win and be a part of the crowd that is the 10,000 crew -- Gates, Witten, Gonzalez, who am I forgetting there. ... Shannon Sharpe, man, the Bronco himself, the main guy I was chasing today -- that's unbelievable company to be in, and I've been very fortunate that I've had the coaches and the players around me to be able to have this much success in the NFL that I've had."
Again, the Chiefs had to sweat out their win after jumping out to a 27-0 lead on Sunday and they'll need to be sharper to get where they want to go this season.
As Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper summed up: "Having a player like Kelce on hand makes reaching those goals a lot more realistic in Kansas City. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... The Chiefs running back group of McKinnon and Isiah Pacheco was too much for Denver to handle Sunday. McKinnon had seven catches for 122 yards and two scores, along with 22 yards on the ground, and Pacheco carried 13 times for 70 yards -- including a bulldozing run over two woebegone safeties to finish the game.
McKinnon saw 10 more snaps than Pacheco in Week 14, but they were both phenomenal with their opportunities.
Ronald Jones was active, but he might as well have been a healthy scratch in Week 14. He didn't play a single snap on offense or special teams.
Smith-Schuster was back up to leading the WR group in snaps this week with 55. That should be the case moving forward so long as he's healthy. ...
Wide receiver Skyy Moore's disappointing rookie season continued Sunday. The second-round pick had just one catch on two targets for 7 yards after being held without a catch in last week's loss in Cincinnati. In addition, Justin Watson did not catch either of his targets against the Broncos.
On the injury front. ... The Chiefs did not have any new injuries Sunday.
Wide receiver Kadarius Toney (hamstring) practiced all of last week but was downgraded to out on Saturday, raising expectations that he will finally return in Houston.
On a more positive health note. ... The Chiefs are activating the 21-day practice window for receiver Mecole Hardman, a source tells ESPN's Jeremy Fowler. Hardman was on IR with an abdomen injury but is healthy enough to practice.
I'll have more on Hardman and Toney via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
One last note here. ... The Chiefs extended their record for consecutive wins over one opponent to 14 against the Broncos. The teams meet again on New Year's Day at Arrowhead Stadium, when another would tie the third-longest streak by any team against any other since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. The Dolphins hold the record with 20 over the Bills from 1970-79, while the 49ers beat the Rams 17 consecutive times from 1990-98.
The Patriots had 15 straight wins over the Bills from 2003-10, as did the Redskins over the Lions from 1970-97.
You can access complete stats for the Chiefs Week 14 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Blaine Gabbert
RBs: Isiah Pacheco, Jerick McKinnon, Clyde Edwards-Helaire
WRs: Kadarius Toney, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, Rashee Rice, Justyn Ross, Justin Watson, Richie James
TEs: Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Blake Bell, Jody Fortson
Las Vegas RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
As Associated Press sports writer Mark Anderson framed it: "After winning three games in a row to creep back into playoff contention, the Las Vegas Raiders blew it all by playing not to lose against a Los Angeles Rams team that had nothing to lose. ..."
Last Thursday night's 17-16 loss takes the Raiders (5-8) out of serious discussion regarding the postseason, especially considering they lost to a team without some of its top players and with a quarterback who flamed out in two other cities and had been with the Rams for 48 hours.
"It's a gut punch," head coach Josh McDaniels said Friday. "And, God, we've had a few of them where we got a chance and just for whatever reason don't end up getting it closed out."
Among the reasons for Thursday's failures:
"On a number of those, we were attempting to get the ball down the field and had some opportunities on some of them to do that," McDaniels said. "Passing the ball is a complementary thing.
"Just because somebody calls something, which there was a number of them called last night, doesn't mean that the ball is ultimately going to get fired down the field or we're going to have great, great success."
"We chose to at least get tight to (Jefferson) and try to make completing the ball a little bit harder," McDaniels said. "I don't think we did a great job of executing being on top of the player the way that we would like to. We can always look back at that and choose something else and we play a softer zone and give them the opportunity to find somebody in some space.
"I think for us the message is just going to be whatever the call is, whenever we call zone, man, split safety, post safety, just try to execute it as best we can to try to deny opportunities like that."
Anderson went on to suggest the Raiders should be 6-7, on a four-game winning streak and looking to make a real push toward the playoffs.
"The disappointment and the frustration of not being able to close it is palpable," McDaniels said. "The reality is we let an opportunity go, and I'm responsible for that. So if they want to point a finger, point it at me. We're going to try to go back to work and fix the things that aren't being done well enough to close out these close games."
Now, at 5-8, the Raiders next face the Patriots at home before traveling to face the Steelers and then closing out at home against the 49ers and Chiefs. The Raiders ran off four straight wins to force their way into the playoffs last season, but the locker room after this devastating loss to the Rams had a sense of finality to it -- at least for this week.
The good news?
The Raiders have extra time to try to recover from this loss before facing the Patriots. McDaniels spent 18 seasons, including 13 as offensive coordinator, with the Patriots. ...
On the injury front. ... Josh Jacobs (finger) left Thursday's game to get his pinkie finger popped back into place and was able to return even though the injury clearly continued to bother him.
Jacobs was set to undergo further tests last weekend, but nothing has been reported about his status.
That Jacobs returned to finish the game is a good sign for his potential availability this week.
On the off chance that's not the case, Zamir White and Ameer Abdullah would likely split the backfield duties. White would have more value in standard leagues, while Abdullah would likely handle the bulk of the passing-down work.
I'll have more on Jacobs via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
The same goes for Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller.
As Las Vegas Review-Journal staffer Vincent Bonsignore first reported Tuesday, both players are being designated to return to practice after spending the last five weeks on the injured reserve list.
That news became official Wednesday. The Raiders have up to 21 days to decide whether to activate them on the 53-man roster, although it is conceivable that distinction could be made in time for them to play against the Patriots.
Waller has played in just five games this season and hasn't played since injuring his hamstring against the Chiefs on Oct. 10. Renfrow has played in just six games after dealing with an early-season concussion and an oblique injury that landed him on the injured reserve list on Nov 10.
The Raiders envisioned an offense in which Waller and Renfrow played off wide receiver Davante Adams, who they traded for last March, while forcing opposing defenses to make hard decisions on where to focus their coverage.
The injuries to Waller and Renfrow have sabotaged that, though, with Renfrow appearing in just 29.85 percent of the Raiders' offensive snaps and Waller just 24.38 percent.
The Raiders had contemplated bringing both back last week, but the quick turnaround from their win over the Chargers on Sunday and their game against the Rams on Thursday eliminated the possibility of full practices. As a result, the Raiders deemed it too ambitious to insert Waller and Renfrow into games without the benefit of any practices beforehand.
Should Waller return this week, The Sporting News contends he profiles as a startable TE in a favorable matchup against New England. In the five games that Waller's played this season, he's drawn six red-zone targets, which is a good sign despite disappointing overall numbers.
If Waller is once again out, backup Foster Moreau has some deep-league appeal.
You can access complete stats for the Raiders Week 14 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, Brian Hoyer, Aidan O'Connell
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Zamir White, Ameer Abdullah, Brandon Bolden
WRs: Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers, Hunter Renfrow, DeAndre Carter, Tre Tucker, Kristian Wilkerson
TEs: Austin Hooper, Michael Mayer, Jesper Horsted
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
As ESPN.com's Lindsey Thiry reported it, Justin Herbert faked a handoff, rolled to his right, settled his feet, then sent a pass sailing through the night air.
Herbert's 55-yard laser of a throw landed in the outstretched arms of wide receiver Mike Williams, drawing cheers throughout SoFi Stadium.
The pass came in the third quarter and was part of a six-play drive that resulted in a field goal to help lift the Bolts to a 23-17 victory over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday, keeping L.A.'s hope alive for their first playoff berth in four seasons.
But for Herbert, the deep completion meant more than another highlight play, as he passed former Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck for the most passing yards through a quarterback's first three NFL seasons.
"I've got a ton of respect for Andrew Luck," Herbert said. "For him as a football player, as a person, as a teammate -- I think it's just cool to be in the same conversation as him."
Herbert has amassed 13,056 passing yards in 44 starts. Luck had 12,957 passing yards in his first three seasons, followed by Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, who had 12,287 in his first three.
Wide receiver Keenan Allen has caught 240 passes for 2,530 yards in nearly three seasons with Herbert.
"He's just getting better, he's just starting," Allen said. "He's about to blow this league away."
Against the Dolphins, Herbert completed 39 of 51 passes for 367 yards and a touchdown for the Bolts (7-6).
"As a quarterback, selfishly, I would love to throw the ball," Herbert said when asked about the pass-heavy game plan. "I wish we could throw it every single down. I think it's just kind of the game plan that we went with. We knew that it was going to be that type of game."
It was Herbert's 21st career game with 300-plus passing yards, two more than any other player in his first three seasons, including Luck.
"He played with great energy tonight that really affected his teammates in a positive way," coach Brandon Staley said. "He made a lot of winning plays, really good decisions throughout the game."
Sunday night was the first time this season that Herbert had both Allen and Williams available throughout an entire game.
Entering Sunday, Allen and Williams had played only 5.7 percent of the Bolts' 811 snaps together due to injuries.
Williams returned from a high ankle sprain that had limited him to only six snaps since Week 7. He caught six passes for 116 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown that Herbert fired that required the 6-4 Williams to leap high to make the catch before ensuring both toes tapped inbounds, despite his momentum carrying him out the back of the end zone.
"I just knew that Mike was going to be able to go up and get it," Herbert said. "He has done such an incredible job getting his feet inbounds."
"Felt pretty good, just wanted to be available the whole game," Williams said. "I felt comfortable. At the end it got a little tight, but I was still able to play and move around."
Allen caught 12 passes for 92 yards, marking his 10th career game with at least 12 receptions -- the most in NFL history.
Herbert completed a pass to nine different players for the fourth time this season.
"That's the offense that we like to play, where people touch the ball," Staley said. "I thought that we ran the football well enough. Like I said, Justin was fantastic with his decision-making tonight."
Defensively, despite playing without safety Derwin James Jr., defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph-Day and cornerback Bryce Callahan, the Bolts limited quarterback Tua Tagovailoa to 145 passing yards and a touchdown, as the third-year quarterback completed only 10 of 28 attempts for a completion percentage of 36 percent, the lowest of his career.
"The game plan was simple," cornerback Michael Davis said. "We were playing fast and loose."
The Bolts currently are the No. 7 seed in the AFC, tied with the New York Jets (7-6) but boasting a better conference record. Next up, The Chargers host the Titans, who have dropped three straight for the first time since 2018.
The AFC South leaders are the last team Los Angeles will face in the regular season with a winning record.
Other notes of interest. ... Allen led all wide receivers in snaps with 69, hauling in 12 catches for 92 yards, while Josh Palmer closely followed him with 63. Williams played 52 snaps and led the team in receiving yards with 116. DeAndre Carter played 12 offensive snaps and Michael Bandy played two snaps.
Austin Ekeler led all running back with 47 snaps and finished the game with 104 yards from scrimmage and a rushing touchdown. Joshua Kelley played 32 snaps and rushed the ball four times for 29 yards. Fullback Zander Horvath was on the field for 13 offensive plays, while rookie Isaiah Spiller was on for two.
Gerald Everett played the most snaps among tight ends with 58 -- a season-high for him. Tre' McKitty played the second-most with 41, with rookie Stone Smartt both playing four offensive snaps. ...
As Associated Press sports writer Joe Reedy pointed out, scoring touchdowns in the red zone continues to be a challenge.
The Chargers made six trips into the red zone against the Dolphins, but only got into the end zone twice. They had to settle for field goals three times and turned it over on downs on their first trip after Carter was stopped at the Miami 2 on fourth-and-goal. Los Angeles is near the bottom of the league in red zone efficiency, with 23 touchdowns in 48 trips.
On the injury front. ... S Derwin James (quadriceps) remains day to day. Staley said he expects OT Trey Pipkins to return to practice and TE Donald Parham (hamstring) to be activated off injured reserve.
Staley also expressed optimism Monday that edge rusher Joey Bosa and left tackle Rashawn Slater could return from injured reserve this season, providing a potential boost for a playoff run.
Following a Week 3 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, Bosa underwent surgery to repair a groin tear and Slater underwent surgery on a torn left biceps tendon.
You can access complete stats for the Chargers Week 14 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Justin Herbert, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley, Isaiah Spiller, Elijah Dotson
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Quentin Johnston, Josh Palmer, Jalen Guyton, Derius Davis
TEs: Gerald Everett, Donald Parham, Tre' McKitty, Stone Smartt
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
As Associated Press sports writer Greg Beacham put it: "Now imagine what Baker Mayfield and Sean McVay can do with two practices together. ..."
Beacham went on to advise readers that was the prevailing thought around the Los Angeles Rams as they entered a highly enjoyable long weekend after their stunning, come-from-behind, last-minute 17-16 victory over the Las Vegas Raiders last Thursday night.
"That was a special night," McVay said Friday. "Baker and the receivers making those plays, it sure was fun to watch them do their thing."
Less than 48 hours after he arrived on the West Coast, Mayfield was throwing darts downfield and head-butting his new teammates in celebration after leading the Rams to their first win since Oct. 16.
His preparation time consisted of one light practice Wednesday with two 10-play periods behind center -- and then Mayfield went into SoFi Stadium and took over the Rams' offense from the second series onward, eventually passing for 230 yards and leading two TD drives in the fourth quarter.
"Ball is ball," Mayfield said afterward. "And when you have guys like that around you that put you in a good spot and they help you out, and those guys did it."
Van Jefferson's 23-yard TD catch with 10 seconds to play considerably lightened the mood around the Rams (4-9), who ended a six-game skid and avoided matching their longest losing streak since coming home to LA. For at least another week, the 1999 Denver Broncos remain the only defending Super Bowl champion to lose 10 games.
The Rams have extra time to prepare for their visit to Green Bay Monday night to begin the final stretch of a lost season that no longer seems so grim with Mayfield behind center. McVay confirmed he expects Mayfield to be his starting QB for the last four games.
"It feels really good right now, but there's a lot to get fixed," Mayfield, who on Wednesday was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week, said.
That's for sure: Even with Mayfield pushing the ball downfield in a way neither John Wolford, who won't play this week due to a neck injury, nor Bryce Perkins had been capable of doing in Matthew Stafford's absence, the Rams still didn't get into the end zone until the final 3:19 against the Raiders. McVay believes Mayfield can do even more once he understands more of the Rams' playbook following this elongated break.
"It will be good to just take a deep breath and unpack the game from last night, and give the coaches a little bit of time," McVay said.
With their first-round pick next year belonging to Detroit, the Rams have no motivation to tank, obviously or indirectly. They'll try to win as many games as possible, including a New Year's Day showdown with their playoff-contending SoFi roommates, the Los Angeles Chargers. ...
As for the more immediate future, expect the Rams to have more plays in the package for Mayfield in Green Bay, and they'll be riding positive momentum for the first time in two months. That's about as good as it will get for LA late in this lost season. ...
Does Mayfield have a future with the Rams?
As ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop notes, this likely depends on whether Mayfield will have an opportunity to start somewhere else. If he is willing to start next season as the Rams' backup quarterback behind a (hopefully) healthy Stafford, it's a pairing that makes sense for both parties.
The Rams want to use the final four games to evaluate Mayfield, but McVay made it clear how impressed he was with the quarterback in his first game.
Other notes of interest. ... Cam Akers and the Rams' offensive line both didn't contribute enough. Mayfield was sacked four times behind a line that committed a handful of costly penalties and didn't get much going for Akers, who averaged 3.5 yards per carry. Akers made back-to-back huge plays to end the Rams' penultimate scoring drive, but he also fumbled in the red zone in the first half.
Although Jefferson caught the game-winner, Ben Skowronek was the Rams' unlikely hero at receiver with career highs of seven catches for 89 yards, including a 32-yard grab in double coverage on the decisive drive. Skowronek has sometimes seemed to be in over his head when asked to play extensively on offense in the past two seasons, but the former seventh-round pick is improving. ...
On the injury front. ... WR Jacob Harris will need surgery after tearing his pectoral muscle. Harris mostly contributed on special teams. ... DT Marquise Copeland has a high ankle sprain, further depleting the Rams' depth up front after losing Aaron Donald and A'Shawn Robinson to injury in recent weeks. ...
Along those lines, Cooper Kupp is likely to miss the rest of the season with his sprained right ankle, McVay says.
McVay announced Tuesday that he doesn't expect Kupp to play again this season, although he left open the slightest possibility the 2021 AP Offensive Player of the Year could return. Kupp has missed the past four games for the Rams, who have four games remaining.
"You won't see Cooper this year," McVay said. "(Donald), there's still a possibility, but Cooper, I would be hard-pressed to see any scenario that he would play again this year."
Kupp was injured Nov. 13 against Arizona when he went down awkwardly while trying to catch a poorly thrown ball from Wolford. He has missed the Rams' past four games, but the Super Bowl MVP had expressed optimism shortly after his injury about a possible late-season return.
Instead, McVay says the Rams expect Kupp to sit out the final four games of the season as well.
"It's really just the timing of the injury and how long it would take for him to get back to even being medically cleared to return to performance," McVay said. "He's making good progress. ... But I still think you're anything between three and four weeks away. I've got to be careful speaking in absolutes. I think it would be surprising if he was able to play again (this season), but I don't want to say there's a 0 percent chance."
Los Angeles' decisions on injuries are easier because its playoff hopes are all but mathematically gone.
Kupp has 75 receptions for 812 yards and six touchdowns this season. Despite missing the last four games and making three catches for minus-1 yards against the Cardinals before getting hurt, he still ranks ninth in the NFL in receptions and 19th in yards receiving.
Stafford is all but certain to miss the rest of the season with a bruised spinal cord. Several additional key starters are out for the season, including receiver Allen Robinson (foot).
And a few final items. ... Perkins has been on the Rams' 53-man roster for the past two seasons because McVay valued his potential and skill set, but it's now apparent McVay doesn't want his third-string QB to play ahead of a new waiver-wire acquisition, even one as talented as Mayfield. Beacham contends that's a waste of a roster spot that could have been used to bolster the Rams' depth.
And last. ... Three offensive assistant coaches already reported to be leaving McVay's staff for other jobs.
The Rams haven't confirmed the latest possible departures from a staff with ample turnover during McVay's tenure, but they also pointedly haven't denied them. McVay acknowledged he has discussed a possible return to Kentucky by offensive coordinator Liam Coen after one year back with the Rams, but he doesn't think Coen has finalized the move.
You can access complete stats for the Rams Week 14 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Stetson Bennett
RBs: Kyren Williams, Zach Evans, Ronnie Rivers
WRs: Puka Nacua, Tutu Atwell, Van Jefferson, Demarcus Robinson, Ben Skowronek, Cooper Kupp
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Brycen Hopkins, Hunter Long, Davis Allen
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra framed it: "Tua Tagovailoa authored the worst game of his career in Sunday night's 23-17 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers, unable to find the mark and getting outdueled by Justin Herbert."
"It's very disappointing for us to go out there as an offense and kind of show what we showed," Tagovailoa said. "That's not up to our standard, that's not how we play football here, and that was very disappointing."
The Dolphins quarterback completed a career-low 35.7 percent of his passes, going 10-of-28 for 145 yards with one touchdown for a 65.3 passer rating. Tua's 35.7 completion percentage was the worst by a Dolphins QB since David Woodley (31.0) in Week 15, 1980, per NFL Research.
Tagovailoa struggled from the outset against a Chargers defense missing a host of key pieces. He completed just 3 of 15 attempts in the first half for a measly 25 yards. Things got a little better in the second half, but the Dolphins never found a rhythm.
Tua connected on one deep shot to Tyreek Hill for a 60-yard TD. Beyond that, he completed just nine passes for 85 yards.
It's the second straight week that Miami's offense has been slowed in its trip to California, where the Dolphins lost back-to-back games to the 49ers and Chargers, putting up just 17 points in each contest.
The Chargers pressed the Dolphins in man coverage and took away the middle of the field, disrupting the timing and effectiveness of Miami's passing attack.
Dolphins receivers also were not getting separation, and Tagovailoa misfired when he did have open targets.
Tagovailoa said the struggles have come down to poor communication and execution, as defenses aren't doing anything that the Dolphins didn't see on film in their preparation.
McDaniel said the blame starts with the coaching, which was just as questionable.
On a Chargers third-and-goal at the 17, Miami questionably lined up most of its defenders in the end zone. Herbert dumped an underneath pass to Austin Ekeler, who had room to take the ball to the 1-yard line. The Chargers scored on fourth down to take a 17-7 lead to the half.
Despite McDaniel's attempts at deflecting blame to the entire offense, Associated Press sports writer Alanis Thames contends Tagovailoa simply has to play better in order for the offense to turn things around.
"To have gone out this week and played the way that we played, especially on my part," Tagovailoa said, "that is unacceptable."
That said, Hill deserves credit for his two electric touchdowns, including his 57-yard touchdown run after recovering a fumble.
Whatever the case, the loss pushed the Dolphins to 8-5, trailing Buffalo by two games in the division and clinging to the No. 6 seed. Miami's schedule doesn't lighten up with a short week before facing Buffalo on Saturday night and games against the Packers, Patriots and Jets remaining.
McDaniel said how his team responds to the disappointing losses will define their season.
"I've been a part of teams, two teams specifically, that ended up playing in the Super Bowl that had a loss pretty similar to the one that we had tonight, where you have high expectations and take a punch to the gut," he said. "I've been on teams where it snowballed even further. I think relative to where the year's at, I think you always want to continue to progress.
"As long as we learn from all of it and start playing better football, I don't really care what it is, it is going to hurt. I think our guys' expectations from what they feel they should be, this is probably the furthest miss we have had all year. So, you really, really can't hide in these situations. You find out who you are working with and who you are dealing with. I know what they'll find out from me and I am excited about what I'll find out from them."
Indeed, the Dolphins will need to prove their early season success was not a fluke against a tough Buffalo opponent that likely has Saturday's upcoming game circled after blowing a lead against Miami in Week 3.
McDaniel said he will likely have to "tone it down a little bit" in practice this week as the Dolphins get reacclimated with the east coast after spending the past 10 days in California.
"No one's in the business of feeling sorry for us. No one should," McDaniel said. "We have tremendous opportunities moving forward to play to our standard."
Other notes of interest. ... Jaylen Waddle had four targets against the Chargers. He caught his first pass in the fourth quarter and finished with just two receptions a week after catching one pass against San Francisco -- not a promising sight for Miami's No. 2 receiving option.
The 24-year-old has now turned in consecutive fantasy duds while attempting to play through a leg injury.
Waddle did reach 1,000 receiving yards on the year despite his recent poor play, a feat he has now accomplished in each of his first two seasons as a pro. ...
Raheem Mostert rushed 11 times for 37 yards and caught his lone target for seven yards on Sunday night.
Mostert was bottled up in a matchup that looked favorable on paper. Miami's passing attack struggled early and forced the offense to abandon the run despite the Chargers' vulnerability to the rush in 2022.
Fellow running back Jeff Wilson Jr. suffered a hip injury and did not return after halftime.
If he is unable to suit up with the upcoming short week, then Mostert would have the backfield to himself against the Bills on Saturday.
Hill played through his ankle injury until late, but Wilson was carted off in the second quarter and ruled out afterward.
McDaniel told reporters on Monday that Hill's ankle injury seems more like bumps and bruises that he can work through as opposed to a sprain. Sounds like he'll be good for Saturday against the Bills. And LT Terron Armstead had a "successful game experience without a setback" per McDaniel.
McDaniel added that Wilson is day to day and that test results were "more positive than the worst case scenario it could have been. We have avoided the worst case scenarios for sure."
Hill was limited in Tuesday's practice while Wilson was held out altogether.
Armstead, safety Elijah Campbell (concussion), wide receiver River Cracraft (calf), linebacker Melvin Ingram (rest) and safety Eric Rowe (hamstring) were listed as non-participants.
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (knee), cornerback Kader Kohou (thumb, neck), tight end Durham Smythe (quad, knee) and defensive tackle Justin Zimmer (back) joined Hill in the limited category.
I'll have more on Hill and Wilson via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
You can access complete stats for the Dolphins Week 14 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Tua Tagovailoa, Mike White, Skylar Thompson
RBs: Raheem Mostert, Devon Achane, Salvon Ahmed, Chris Brooks, Jeff Wilson
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Cedrick Wilson, Braxton Berrios, Erik Ezukanma
TEs: Durham Smythe, Julian Hill, Tyler Kroft
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
As Sam Thiel of the team's official website wrote, "It was a tale of two sides for the Vikings offense against Detroit Sunday."
Thiel went on to explain on one side was a record-setting performance by wide receiver Justin Jefferson, paired with a strong outing by quarterback Kirk Cousins. The other was a season-low in rushing by Minnesota coupled with third-down struggles and a crucial turnover in the Detroit red zone.
Put together, it equaled an up-and-down day for Minnesota that resulted in a 34-23 loss to the Lions.
After being limited to a career-low 14 receiving yards and three catches in the Vikings Week 3 matchup with the Lions in Minneapolis, Jefferson put on a show Sunday in Detroit.
The third-year receiver hauled in 11 receptions for a career-high 223 yards, breaking the franchise record previously set by Sammy White in 1976 (210 yards) -- also against the Lions.
"It definitely would have been better with a win, but we fought to the last second," Jefferson said. "We were trying to make plays out there, just trying to keep the game going. We started off a little slow, but I felt like we've got to do better as a whole team, in all phases; we've got to play better."
Cousins completed 31 of his 41 pass attempts for a season-high 425 yards (tying his fourth-best single-game total) and two touchdowns.
But it wasn't enough.
Despite ranking last in the NFL in opponent yards allowed per game at 402.2 entering Sunday, Detroit held Minnesota to only 22 rushing yards and sacked Cousins four times. The Vikings were also 4-of-10 on third downs and fumbled twice, with one of the turnovers occurring inside the Detroit 5-yard line.
The poor rushing attack isn't a new development.
Dalvin Cook has averaged fewer than 3 yards per carry in three of the last six games. He lost the aforementioned critical fumble with 59 seconds left in the second quarter on a busted trick play from the 3 when he hesitated and was hit before he could throw to tight end Johnny Mundt.
The Lions used the missteps to their advantage, building a double-digit lead in the fourth quarter. Similar to their 28-24 victory in their first meeting, the Vikings tried to rally again late, but this time Detroit kept its foot on the gas pedal and held on.
"Got to give the Lions credit. They played a really solid football game. Thought our guys battled, but we just didn't do enough to win the game," head coach Kevin O'Connell said. "When I look at it, there were some positive performances from some individual players and some things that gave us a chance to be in the football game, but just across the board not enough in the run game offensively and a pretty critical turnover in the low red [zone] trying to take a shot at a play right there.
"We've got to be better if we want to earn the right to punch our ticket into the playoffs. We sure better have a playoff worthy-type performance, which I did not think overall as a football team we did."
Despite the loss, O'Connell lauded Cousins and Jefferson for keeping the offense within reach at critical moments throughout the game.
"Pair that with a little bit better of a day running the football, and I think that offensively [we're] in a place where we feel like we can compete," O'Connell added.
It's also fair to day the defense came up short in this one.
The Minnesota Vikings have found a winning formula for this season despite a vulnerable defense: producing enough well-timed sacks, stops and turnovers in scoring range to offset the concerning amount of total yards they've surrendered.
On Sunday, the Vikings didn't come close to sacking Jared Goff, who shredded their injury-thinned secondary.
The potent Lions not only didn't turn the ball over at all, they scored six times with only one punt over their last nine possessions.
"I think we need to take a look at what we can do to potentially help our guys be in a position to make more plays, be a little bit more aggressive, possibly," O'Connell said. "Ultimately I think we need to generate more rush, however we do it, and then just try to limit explosives."
With the Vikings (10-3) enjoying so much success in his first year, O'Connell hasn't had much reason to criticize his team, and his confident and optimistic personality rarely moves him to do so.
His postgame assessment was a clear directive to defensive coordinator Ed Donatell, though, to make some schematic changes to a group that set a dubious franchise record with a fifth straight game allowing 400-plus yards. O'Connell said on Monday he's not "as of right now" considering a substitute play-caller for Donatell or shuffle of any other responsibilities.
The Vikings have yielded 60 plays of 20-plus yards this year, tied with the Lions for the most in the NFL, according to Sportradar data. They've given up 25 plays of 30-plus yards, second-most in the league. They're also not a team under Donatell that blitzes much, sending more than four rushers on 17.3 percent of the passing plays against them, per Sportradar's calculations, ranking 25th in frequency.
Their quarterback pressure rate of 17.6 percent ranks just 27th in the NFL.
Fortunately, the Vikings get their next two games at home against struggling teams, with the Colts (4-8-1) followed by the New York Giants (7-5-1). Neither team has won since Nov. 13. The Vikings will win the NFC North with one more win or one more Lions loss.
They're one game ahead of San Francisco for the No. 2 seed in the NFC.
Other notes of interest. ... With a franchise record 223 yards today against the Lions, Jefferson has 1,500 yards exactly. He's on pace for 1,961.
With four games left, an average of 125 down the stretch would get Jefferson to 2,000 yards.
Said Jefferson after setting the team's single-game record, "I would rather have the win over the stats any day. We just got to execute our plays and come ready to play next week."
As Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio wrote, "Yes, there are now 17 regular-season games. And, yes, records set in a 16-game season inevitably will fall.
"Last year, Rams receiver Cooper Kupp nearly broke Calvin Johnson's single-season receiving yardage record of 1,964 yards. This year, Jefferson poised to make a run at it. ..."
According to Associated Press sports writer Dave Campbell noted, over the last three seasons, only four quarterbacks have passed for 400-plus yards without an interception and lost the game, per Sportradar. Cousins joined the club on Sunday. ...
As LateRound.com's JJ Zachariason notes, Cook has failed to reach 10 PPR points in three of his last four games. Across his nine before that, he hit 10-plus points in all but one.
According to Zachariason, a big reason is that his target share per game average is just 7.8 percent since Week 10.
You can access complete stats for the Vikings Week 14 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Nick Mullens, Jaren Hall
RBs: Alexander Mattison, Ty Chandler, Myles Gaskin, Cam Akers, C.J. Ham, Kene Nwangwu
WRs: Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, K.J. Osborn, Jalen Nailor, Brandon Powell, N'Keal Harry
TEs: T.J. Hockenson, Josh Oliver, Johnny Mundt, Nick Muse
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
After Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray was carted off three plays into the game, Mac Jones and the New England Patriots toughed out a 27-13 victory on "Monday Night Football."
According to ESPN.com's Mike Reiss, no team has scored more points off turnovers than the Patriots (7-6), and that was the formula they needed to overcome the Cardinals (4-9). Safety Kyle Dugger's forced fumble that linebacker Raekwon McMillan returned 23 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter was the turning point in the game. The Patriots then turned an interception by rookie cornerback Marcus Jones on the ensuing Cardinals drive into a rushing touchdown.
The Patriots have scored 92 points off turnovers, followed by the Eagles (80) and Cowboys (80). McMillan's fumble return for a touchdown was the team's fifth non-offensive touchdown of the season, which ties the Cardinals for most in the NFL.
Winning with defense seems like it will have to be the Patriots' formula if they have hope of making the postseason.
Jones was under consistent pressure, and he once again let his frustration show early in the third quarter when the Patriots had to burn a timeout and television cameras showed him shouting an expletive as he headed toward the sideline.
The Patriots got the ball out of his hands quickly early; he averaged 2.19 seconds in the first half, per NFL Next Gen Stats.
They opened things up a bit more in the second half. Jones finished 24-of-35 for 235 yards, with no touchdowns and 1 interception.
A second-straight week in which he flashed his anger during a game led to a postgame question about whether he's frustrated by the offense and Jones responded negatively while complimenting play caller Matt Patricia.
"No. The biggest thing is not letting it affect my play and bringing the best out of my guys," Jones said in his press conference. "Today, thought we all did a good job trying to play the next play, play the next series and Matt did a great job. He's trying to call the game so that we can win. Sometimes, it might be this thing that people don't know about, like the quick passes for whatever reason and that's our game plan. We knew what we had to do to win and he called a great game and stayed calm. He's a calm person, very stoic. We're just going to continue to grow together and do what we can to win games."
Patricia dismissed any concerns about Jones' on-field outbursts when asked about them on Tuesday.
"This is a super passionate game. We love this game, we put a lot into it. We work hard and care. We're trying to win, so I love all of that," Patricia said during a video conference Tuesday. "All of it, is, you care, you really care. Mac and I are … I know he wants to win and he's doing everything he can just like we all are. So, that stuff's great."
Patricia continued, citing his history with other high-quality players as why he likes what he's seeing from Jones.
"I've coached some pretty awesome rooms before. I've been around some pretty great players throughout the years. Those guys had a tremendous passion for the game, like Mac. You love to see that stuff," Patricia said. "You love to see it, and you always just try to direct it in a way that will help everyone in those moments get better, and that's the biggest part of it as a coach.
"But I've been through some pretty fiery guys, don't forget. Tedy Bruschi, Junior Seau, Mike Vrabel, Willie McGinest … there's been some great players, and Mac is one of the guys who loves the game. So I love that."
Monday's win lifted the Patriots past the Chargers and Jets into the No. 7 spot in the AFC playoff picture, which makes it easier to smooth over any rough offensive patches as the Patriots look to the final four weeks with a chance to return to the postseason. ...
Injuries were an issue in this one.
Rhamondre Stevenson (ankle), starting receiver DeVante Parker (evaluated for concussion) and rookie cornerback Jack Jones (knee) -- who was starting in place of Jalen Mills (groin) -- were all knocked out of action in the first half and didn't return.
Without Stevenson, who left because of an ankle injury in the first half, the Patriots had no choice but to turn to rookies Kevin Harris and Pierre Strong Jr.
They were the only healthy running backs on the game-day roster with Damien Harris (thigh) a pregame scratch.
Harris (14-yard TD to help 32nd-ranked red zone offense) and Strong (44-yard rush) delivered despite having played just 13 and 10 offensive snaps this season, respectively.
Harris became the first Patriots rookie with a rushing touchdown on "Monday Night Football" since Shane Vereen in 2011 against the Kansas City Chiefs. ...
Needless to say, I'll be keeping a close eye on Stevenson, Harris and Parker and Jakobi Meyers, who missed Monday's game with a concussion in coming days. Stevenson, Meyers and Parker were not practicing Wednesday, but Harris was on the field.
Watch the Late-Breaking Update section for more on their progress in coming days. ...
Meanwhile, it's worth noting the NFL Players Association has initiated an inquiry into why Monday night's game wasn't stopped when Parker showed concussion symptoms, a source told ESPN's Dan Graziano on Tuesday. Parker has made his displeasure known.
"Get on yalls f--kin job @NFL," Parker said on Instagram, via Zack Cox of NESN. "Thankful my brother was aware of the situation."
Parker was wobbly getting up after a hit in the first half, and teammate Nelson Agholor had to signal to the officials to stop the game and remove Parker before the next play.
Parker sustained his head injury on a 10-yard catch at the 4:19 mark of the first quarter following a hit and tackle by Cardinals defensive back Antonio Hamilton over the middle.
Parker entered Monday with 23 receptions for 436 yards and one touchdown on the season. He had played 65 percent of the team's offensive snaps. ...
You can access complete stats for the Patriots Week 14 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Mac Jones, Matt Corral
RBs: Rhamondre Stevenson, Ezekiel Elliott
WRs: JuJu Smith-Schuster, DeVante Parker, Kendrick Bourne, Kayshon Boutte, Demario Douglas, Matt Slater, Tyquan Thornton
TEs: Hunter Henry, Mike Gesicki
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
Receiver Michael Thomas and season-opening starting quarterback Jameis Winston have not played since Week 3 -- and that has turned out to be just the beginning of what has gone awry for New Orleans in 2022.
As Associated Press sports writer Brett Martel noted, the Week 14 bye gave the Saints (4-9) a brief reprieve before they try to avoid their first 10-loss season since 2005.
That was the year before the Saints hired Sean Payton, who became the winningest coach in franchise history before retiring after last season.
Under first-year coach Dennis Allen, the Saints arguably have been more competitive than their record -- and last-place standing in the NFC South -- would indicate. But they've been done in by not just bad fortune on the injury front; execution also has been a problem, particularly at pivotal junctures of close games.
"It hurts because I know how much all these guys in this locker room and on this coaching staff put into trying to win," Allen said this week, following a 17-16 loss at Tampa Bay on Monday night in which the Saints held a 13-point lead with just more than three minutes left.
"I feel like we put ourselves in position to win on more than one occasion and for different reasons we haven't been able to get the result that all of us would have liked," Allen said.
Martel went on to note that quarterback questions have plagued New Orleans since Winston hurt his back during a Week 1 comeback victory at Atlanta. He performed poorly the next two weeks, and even after he said he felt physically well again, Allen declined to play him, deferring instead to 35-year-old, 12-year veteran Andy Dalton.
Allen said on Monday that Dalton will remain the Saints' QB1 this Sunday. But that could change over the last few weeks of the season, with Winston waiting in the wings for his opportunity.
"I think we'll evaluate everything as we finish out these last four games," Allen said in his press conference. "But, I think Andy's done some good thing. I think we've got to do a lot of other things around him to help him -- and that includes us as a coaching staff putting everybody in better positions."
The Saints are 3-7 with Dalton as a starter this season. He's completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 2,252 yards and 15 TDs -- but also has thrown seven interceptions and taken 16 sacks.
Winston threw for 858 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions as the Saints went 1-2 in his three starts to open the season.
Injuries have affected other key Saints players, including cornerback Marshon Lattimore, who has missed eight games, as well as center Erik McCoy, who's been on injured reserve since midseason.
At this point, the relatively late-season bye presents players a choice of wallowing in discouragement or coming back determined to exhibit the type of effort and production that could improve their individual career prospects -- and perhaps give the Saints a foundation from which to build next year.
"There's going to be a lot of reflection on us and what we can do better personally, and each unit and as a team," Dalton said. "That's kind of just where we're at."
Allen said the bye "is a time for guys to kind of get themselves recharged mentally, physically and emotionally, and get ready to finish out these last four games."
Statistics haven't portrayed an entirely unflattering picture of New Orleans' play this season.
Through Week 13, the Saints ranked 16th in total offensive yards and 11th in yards passing. Their 20.4 points per game ranks 21st, but is as good or better than several playoff contenders, including the New York Giants, Tampa Bay, Tennessee and Washington.
"We're moving the ball," said Allen, who largely oversees defense and has entrusted the offense to coordinator Pete Carmichael, a fellow holdover from the Payton years. "We're doing some good things offensively. But yet, we have an opportunity to make some plays -- we don't make them."
Defensively, the Saints rank 11th in yards allowed through 13 weeks, 17th in points allowed and ninth in total sacks.
But New Orleans has been hampered repeatedly by untimely penalties that have either stalled their own drives or sustained those of their opponents. And their minus-12 turnover differential ranks 31st.
Such errors have been particularly costly in five losses by eight or fewer points, including three by four or fewer.
"It's unfortunate that we keep having to say the same thing over and over," Dalton said. "The missed opportunities have hurt us. We've had chances in a lot of games this year. We haven't made plays when we needed to."
The Saints remain mathematically alive in the NFC South, but trail Tampa Bay by 2 1/2 games with four to play -- and the Buccaneers would win any ties thanks to victories in both meetings.
"We have to win them all," said rookie receiver and returner Rashid Shaheed, whose emergence has been among the Saints' bright spots in recent weeks. "We have to continue to battle as a team. We have to stick together. We can't let anything divide us. ... We're going to continue to fight and throw punches until it's all over. ..."
The Saints signed veteran running back David Johnson to their active roster on Monday. They waived veteran offensive lineman Josh Andrews in a corresponding move.
The Saints needed a replacement at running back with Mark Ingram reportedly out for the season with an MCL tear.
The team signed Johnson to the practice squad after Ingram injured his knee in Week 7. Johnson has appeared in one game with the Saints, playing 10 offensive snaps and recording 7 yards from scrimmage in a win against the Rams.
He rushed for 228 yards in 13 games with the Texans last season.
Andrews was on the active roster as a fill-in for center Erik McCoy, who is eligible to come off injured reserve. Andrews started three games for the Saints but did not play in the team's last game. ...
In addition, the Saints claimed former Texans’ and Cardinals’ RB Eno Benjamin on waivers Wednesday. ...
One last note here. ... The NFL has fined the New Orleans Saints $350,000 and gave additional fines to two coaches and a player for faking an injury during a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Allen received a $100,000 fine, co-defensive coordinator Ryan Nielsen was fined $50,000 and defensive end Cameron Jordan was fined $50,000 for the delay in the fourth quarter of the Buccaneers' 17-16 comeback win Monday night, according to the person, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the league does not announce fines.
The Saints denied purposefully delaying the game in Tampa, describing medical attention Jordan sought before and afterward, and said they planned to appeal the fines.
In their statement denying the NFL's assertion, the Saints detailed Jordan's injury:
"Jordan felt foot pain following a third down play and sought medical attention," the team said. "He entered the blue medical tent and was examined by the medical staff and following the examination he was taped and able to finish the game. He had an MRI performed the following day in New Orleans and was confirmed that he suffered an acute mid-foot sprain in his left foot. He has been at the facility each day receiving treatment for his injury he suffered on the play."
In a memo sent to teams on Dec. 2 and obtained by the AP, the NFL said the league "continues to emphasize the importance of upholding the integrity of the game and competitive fairness as our highest priority. We have observed multiple instances of clubs making a deliberate attempt to stop play unnecessarily this season."
QBs: Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, Jake Haener
RBs: Jamaal Williams, Kendre Miller, Alvin Kamara
WRs: Chris Olave, Michael Thomas, Rashid Shaheed, A.T. Perry, Tre'Quan Smith
TEs: Juwan Johnson, Foster Moreau, Jimmy Graham, Taysom Hill
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
According to ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan, Saquon Barkley came out of Sunday's 48-22 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles feeling "pretty good" after being a game-day decision because of a neck injury.
Barkley suffered the injury, which he confirmed was a stinger, during practice this past week. He was listed as questionable for Sunday's contest, which he finished with 28 yards on nine carries.
It was the third time in the past four games Barkley had fewer than 40 yards rushing, but he said that's not a concern.
"Came out of the game pretty well [physically]," Barkley said. "Was a disappointing outcome."
The Giants (7-5-1) have won just once in their past five games. They have a massive matchup next Sunday night against the Washington Commanders that will go a long way toward deciding their playoff future. Washington enters the game with an identical record following its bye in Week 14.
Barkley said he didn't feel any worse after the game than prior. There was little doubt he will play this week against the Commanders.
"No doubt," he said confidently after logging a season-low 20 offensive snaps against the Eagles.
The Giants had planned to decrease Barkley's playing time even though he was cleared to play Sunday without any limitations. The standout running back came into the contest playing over 80 percent of the team's offensive snaps. He played just 32.3 percent of the snaps against Philadelphia.
"Yeah, I wouldn't say we had a pitch count, but I think we had a plan," head coach Brian Daboll said. "He came in early [Sunday] and got his treatment. He got looked at by the doctors and the medical staff.
"We were going to make sure we were being smart with him."
It has been a tough stretch for Barkley and the Giants. Barkley left the game for a few plays early in the second half after banging a shoulder.
But another reason for the low snap count was the game had gotten out of hand. Barkley was taken out of the contest late in the third quarter and didn't return in the fourth, as the Eagles entered the final stanza with a 34-14 lead.
"It was part of the game plan. Obviously, I would love to play a lot more," Barkley said. "The reason why I didn't play as much is not because my neck. They just played great. We got our ass whooped. We just have to do better as a team. It starts with the leaders, it starts with myself."
For the record, Barkley finished the day with a 32 percent snap share.
Fellow running backs Matt Breida and Gary Brightwell both saw their workloads increase. Barkley's last touch came in the third quarter.
Brightwell took the second series of the contest (which hadn't occurred in any other game this season), and Breida was used as a passing-down option.
Barkley's injury occurred on an innocuous play in practice.
"Caught the ball, tagging off, kind of spun out of it. Something just flared in my neck," he said. "But hey, everything happens for a reason. I'm just happy I'm healthy and was able to go today. I would have loved to play more. But I look forward to the next opportunity and I'll probably be sure I'll have a bigger role in the next game."
Barkley, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, never contemplated sitting out to make sure he was ready for Washington. After an injury-filled three seasons, he has played in every game so far this season despite a shoulder problem that affected him at times earlier this year.
"Every week is important," Barkley said. "I was ready. I was ready to go. ..."
Meanwhile, for most of the season, there has been talk about the Giants getting back to the playoffs for the first time since 2016. The postseason picture was bright when the franchise got off to a 6-1 start.
It's a lot dimmer now with the Giants going 1-4-1 in their last six games.
With four games left in the regular season, it's uncertain whether New York (7-5-1) will make the postseason. One thing is certain: The Giants will participate in a playoff-type game Sunday night when they travel to Washington to face the Commanders (7-5-1).
The teams tied 20-all at MetLife Stadium on Dec. 4. This game will be their tiebreaker in the event they finish the season with the same record.
That makes it a playoff game.
Daboll is looking for a little more consistency from players and coaches.
"We've had some tough games here these last few weeks," he said. "Make no excuses about them. Every game we go into, we prepare, we plan, we practice with the right mindset. All the other things, (there's) not much we can control about that. What we can control is the things we do today and this week and get ready. ..."
I'll be keeping a close eye on Barkley, who was scheduled to work fully on Wednesday, in practice this week. The Giants don't have enough playmakers to survive without Barkley being a major factor. They need him Sunday night against the Commanders.
In addition Daboll had no updates tight end Daniel Bellinger (ribs) and WR Richie James (concussion), who were hurt Sunday.
Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more in coming days. ...
By the way. ... James ran the most routes for the Giants and saw a season high nine targets. As LateRound.com's JJ Zachariason noted, James has seen a 20 percent-plus target share in two of his last three games. ...
You can access complete stats for the Giants Week 14 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Daniel Jones, Tyrod Taylor
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Matt Breida, Eric Gray, Gary Brightwell
WRs: Isaiah Hodgins, Parris Campbell, Darius Slayton, Jalin Hyatt, Sterling Shepard, Wan'Dale Robinson
TEs: Darren Waller, Daniel Bellinger, Lawrence Cager, Chris Myarick
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
According to ESPN.com's Rich Cimini, the New York Jets expect to have banged-up quarterback Mike White for their critical game Sunday against the Detroit Lions, but they're not so sure about star defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, who is considered 50-50 with a calf injury.
White has undergone a battery of tests for a rib injury, including X-rays and a CT scan. The Jets declined to disclose the specific nature of the injury, but coach Robert Saleh sounded confident that White will start for the fourth time since replacing the demoted Zach Wilson.
"We're proceeding as if he's going to be a full participant [in practice] and play in the game on Sunday," Saleh said Monday.
White absorbed two vicious blows Sunday in a 20-12 loss to the Buffalo Bills, forcing him to the sideline after each one. The latter hit -- a full-speed shot to the ribs by linebacker Matt Milano -- sent him to the locker room for X-rays.
Somehow, he finished the game, going directly from Highmark Stadium to a local hospital via ambulance for precautionary tests for internal injuries. He was cleared to fly home with the team.
"I feel good," White said Monday. "I don't feel like a hundred bucks because I just played a football game, but I feel good. Picked my kids out of their cribs this morning and played with them a little bit. They tackled me. I feel fine. I feel good."
Lions defensive end Aidan Hutchinson hits harder than White's 1-year-old twins, so there has to be some concern for the Jets (7-6). White, who said he's prepared to wear a flak jacket, knows there can be a fine line between player safety and the desire to play. He said that will be discussed with team doctors at the proper time.
White, who has endeared himself to teammates with his toughness and outgoing personality, said he had no intention of sitting out the fourth quarter against the Bills.
"I knew, if everything was fine, I was going in," White said, adding that the X-rays at the stadium were negative. "You would've had to peel me off the field. It was never in my mind that I'm not finishing this game."
White completed 27 of 44 passes for 268 yards with no turnovers despite intense pressure from the Buffalo pass rush, although he led the offense to only one touchdown for the second straight week. The first hit that sent him to the sideline, delivered by defensive tackle Ed Oliver, wasn't as hard as it looked, he said. The Milano hit, he acknowledged, was nasty.
"That's football," he said. "That's the part you don't miss during [the game] because it hurts, but there's part of it you do miss because you do want to prove to your guys, 'Look, I'm willing to hang in there and take the hits necessary to move the ball down the field' and show them you're willing to lay it all out there for them."
Saleh was effusive in his praise of White, who could wind up starting the final four games.
"He stood in there, took his shots, delivered strikes and was playing really, really, really, really well, and was moving the ball on a pretty good defense in their stadium," the coach said.
Teammates shared similar sentiments.
"He's a dog, man," center Connor McGovern said of White. "He's willing to do whatever it takes to win. That's what every guy in this locker room, if they aren't that way, they need to be that way. I believe everybody is that way. Today, Mike was unfortunately an example of that. Guys are willing to do whatever it takes to get the Jets to the playoffs and beyond."
Running back Michael Carter, who had a costly fourth-quarter fumble deep in Buffalo territory, called White a "f---ing soldier, bro. I love playing with that guy." Wide receiver Garrett Wilson said White had "a lot of heart and he's going to put it on the line for his boys. I would do the same for him."
Meanwhile, the Jets will a new backup quarterback this week.
Joe Flacco was ineffective in six snaps, fumbling on a strip sack, and will be replaced by Wilson, who was inactive for the third straight game.
Saleh made the announcement on Wednesday.
"Zach has been working hard the last couple of weeks and he's in a great mental space, so he's ready for whatever we ask of him," said Saleh, who called Wilson's benching an opportunity to "reset" as the scout-team quarterback.
In other injury developments, wide receiver Corey Davis, who suffered a head injury Sunday, is in the concussion protocol, but he showed improvement Monday and there's hope he can play against the Lions. There was less optimism for Quinnen Williams, whose career year was interrupted by a second-quarter calf injury. He didn't return to the game.
Williams, considered day-to-day, recorded his 10th and 11th sacks, tying him with the Kansas City Chiefs' Chris Jones for the most by an interior defensive lineman this season. Williams is "one of the best players in the league," according to Saleh, who said he will have a better handle on the injury in a few days.
I'll have more on White and Davis via Late Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
The Jets play their final two home games in a five-day stretch, with games against the Lions, who are 6-7 and won five of six, and the Jacksonville Jaguars (5-8), who are coming off a 36-22 romp of Tennessee. New York likely needs to win both -- especially with road games at Seattle and Miami to close the regular season -- to have a serious shot at ending an 11-year playoff drought.
Other notes of interest. ... As Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr. notes, Zonovan Knight, the undrafted rookie running back nicknamed "Bam," has been terrific in his three NFL games, displaying a mix of power and speed out of the backfield. He has 230 yards on 46 carries -- a 5.0-yard average -- and ran for his first NFL touchdown Sunday.
Carter was back, and he ended up playing 51 percent of New York's snaps per Next Gen Stats. He played three more snaps than Knight, serving as the pass-catching back (27 routes run to Knight's 12, whereas Knight had 17 rush attempts to Carter's 5).
Still, with the Jets trailing 20-9 but driving into Bills territory, the second-year running back fumbled with just under six minutes remaining. Carter, who returned from missing a game with a sprained ankle, finished with just 5 yards on five carries.
In addition, LateRound.com's JJ Zachariason notes that with Davis leaving early, Elijah Moore ended up playing the second-most snaps for the Jets at wide receiver. That's not nothing considering we've seen Denzel Mims play ahead of him at times this year. Moore led the team with 10 targets.
You can access complete stats for the Jets Week 14 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Zach Wilson, Aaron Rodgers
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Breece Hall, Michael Carter, Israel Abanikanda
WRs: Garrett Wilson, Allen Lazard, Mecole Hardman, Randall Cobb, Jason Brownlee, Xavier Gipson, Charles Irvin
TEs: Tyler Conklin, C.J. Uzomah, Jeremy Ruckert, Kenny Yeboah
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
According to ESPN.com's Tim McManus, head coach Nick Sirianni suggested it hadn't occurred to him that the Eagles had clinched a playoff spot until it was brought to his attention inside the locker room following Sunday's 48-22 romp of the New York Giants.
"They said that to me in there and I'm like, 'Oh, that's nice,'" Sirianni said. "We've got way bigger goals, and it's on to the next one."
Veteran right tackle Lane Johnson said the postgame scene was "just like another day. We didn't 'Yahoo!' or anything. It was like, 'That's cool.'"
The Eagles are the first team to secure a spot in the postseason. This is the first time they have clinched a trip this early since the Super Bowl champion 2017 squad, which also locked it up in Week 14.
That one was far more dramatic. MVP candidate Carson Wentz tore his ACL at the L.A. Coliseum against the Rams that night. Nick Foles stepped in, helped cement the win and proceeded to go on one of the great magic carpet rides in NFL history.
This time around, it was all business. MVP front-runner Jalen Hurts surgically exorcised whatever demons he left at MetLife Stadium during last year's trip here, when he threw a career-high three interceptions.
On Sunday, he sliced New York up for 294 total yards and three touchdowns.
Bigger picture, Hurts has 22 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns with only three interceptions. That kind of production is unprecedented in NFL history. Only two players have even reached those passing-rushing touchdown thresholds in a season (Kyler Murray and Cam Newton), and both of them threw at least 10 interceptions in the season when they scored that many touchdowns.
Hurts has the lowest interception percentage in the NFL this season, having thrown an interception on just 0.8 percent of his passes. His passer rating of 108.4 is the best in the NFL.
If Hurts plays for the final four games the way he has played for the first 13, he's on pace to finish this season with 4,128 passing yards, 29 passing touchdowns, 897 rushing yards, 13 rushing touchdowns and just four interceptions. No quarterback has ever had a season equal to that.
Of course, as Profootballtalk.com's Michael David Smith suggested, there's a good chance that Hurts won't play all 17 games because there's a good chance the Eagles will clinch the NFC No. 1 seed before the season is over.
That may limit Hurts' numbers.
But there are plenty of those. And Hurts' success is reflected in the numbers his teammates are posting.
For example, Hurts and running back Miles Sanders became the first Eagles duo to each score 10-plus rushing touchdowns in a season. The team set a new franchise record for rushing touchdowns in a season with 27, surpassing a mark that was established in 1945.
By the way, Sanders reached 1,000 rushing yards during the win and said after it was over that the Eagles are enjoying every moment of their run to the top of the NFC.
"We're having so much fun out there," Sanders said, via the team's website. "That's really what it is. This is just fun. We're executing at a high level and having fun and complementing each other. That's what it's all about."
With his first career 1,000-yard rushing season, Sanders is first Eagles running back to hit that mark since LeSean McCoy finished with 1,319 in 2014.
In case you haven't been paying attention, Sanders is also averaging one rushing touchdown per game over his last eight games.
A.J. Brown also surpassed the 1,000-yard receiving mark and is the fourth Eagle to have 1,000 receiving yards and 10 receiving touchdowns in a season since 1990.
Brown is the first Eagle hit that 1,000-yard mark since Zach Ertz in 2018 (1,163). He is the first Eagles wideout to do so since Jeremy Maclin in 2014 (1,318).
In addition, Devonta Smith has seen 8-plus targets in five straight games.
Philadelphia's dominance of late has been particularly staggering: The Eagles have scored 123 points over the past three games, their most over a three-game span since scoring 125 points in the 1950 season, according to ESPN Stats and Information research.
Still, none of it seems to be impressing them much.
Asked about clinching a playoff spot, Hurts just said: "It means everything to come out here and get a W. Another week, another challenge in front of us and another week where we've accomplished our goal in getting a win. So we're grateful for that."
Others in the locker room were more hyped. Cornerback Darius Slay let out a yell when the playoff berth was noted during his interview session, recalling some of the lean years he had with the Detroit Lions.
"I've never been 12-1 in the NFL, leading the division, clinching this early. Sky's the limit for this team," he said. "We've got a lot of talented guys in this room and a lot of guys that really play for each other."
Added edge rusher Haason Reddick, who reached double-digit sacks for the third consecutive season: "This is the first year in my NFL career where I'm going to the playoffs. I can't wait to see what that atmosphere is like, hopefully do my part and the team do their job so we can go play for the big trophy."
The Eagles have the best record in football, hold a two-game lead over the Dallas Cowboys (10-3) in the division with four games remaining and, according to ESPN Analytics, have a 79 percent chance to secure the No. 1 seed in the NFC following Sunday's win.
But Sanders summed up the overall mood of the team when he said: "It's a great accomplishment. Long time coming. But it ain't done yet."
That said, Associated Press sports writer Dan Gelston note the last time they clinched a playoff spot as early as Week 14, the Eagles won the Super Bowl. ...
So how can it get better?
Well, Dallas Goedert (shoulder) is eligible to return from the injured reserve ahead of Sunday's game in Chicago.
He originally suffered the shoulder injury in the Eagles' lone loss of the season back in Week 10, and there haven't been many reports on his status since. Back on Nov. 30, he said he "hoped" to return when first eligible in Week 15.
In his absence, fellow TEs Jack Stoll and Grant Calcaterra haven't produced much despite the Eagles' offense averaging 41 points per game over the past three weeks. Goedert's return would be a boost to an already potent offense that could always use another stable receiving option.
As The Sporting News suggested, if Goedert is back -- and reports on Wednesday indicate the team will open his practice window today, he's a must-start given his high target floor, but if he's out, you can continue ignoring Stoll and Calcaterra.
I'll have more on that via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
You can access complete stats for the Eagles Week 14 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Jalen Hurts, Marcus Mariota, Tanner McKee
RBs: D'Andre Swift, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott, Rashaad Penny
WRs: A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Olamide Zaccheaus, Quez Watkins
TEs: Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll, Grant Calcaterra, Albert Okwuegbunam
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
Rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett's first taste of the Baltimore Ravens rivalry ended abruptly when he entered the concussion protocol in the first quarter and never returned in Sunday's 16-14 loss.
As ESPN.com's Brooke Pryor reported, Pickett took a hard sack at the end of the Steelers' first drive, slipping out of the Ravens' first sack attempt, spinning around and being slammed into the ground by Roquan Smith. After coming to the sideline, Pickett was evaluated for a concussion in the injury tent.
He was initially cleared and reentered the game for a second drive -- a quick three-and-out. But after entering the protocol following that series, he didn't come back out for the Steelers' third drive, and backup Mitchell Trubisky checked in.
"When he became symptomatic, he was pulled from the game and evaluated for concussion," head coach Mike Tomlin said afterward. "I don't know about the sequence or the details regarding the sequence."
Trubisky also finished the Steelers' Week 6 game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after Pickett entered the concussion protocol in the first half. In that game, Trubisky completed 9 of 12 attempts for 144 yards and a touchdown in the Steelers' 20-18 win.
On Sunday, Trubisky completed 22 of 30 passes for 276 yards and a touchdown but threw three interceptions in the loss.
Pickett finished his brief outing Sunday without a pass completion, though he did rush twice for 16 total yards.
Similar to his performance against the Bucs, Trubisky was aggressive coming off the bench Sunday.
He averaged a healthy 9.20 yards per attempt, the best average by a Steelers QB in a game with at least 30 passes since Ben Roethlisberger did it in a Monday night victory over Tampa Bay in 2018.
And while the aggression helped the team to two quick scoring drives, one in the second quarter and one in the fourth, it also hurt the Steelers with three interceptions on passes either attempted from the red zone or thrown into the red zone.
"I just wanted to go out there, run the offense," Trubisky said. "Obviously was over-aggressive at times, which showed up in the turnovers. ... I appreciate everyone battling all four quarters. A lot of stuff I can do better, but coming off the bench, just wanted to go in there and try to provide a spark. I thought we did a good job of moving the ball, but I've got to protect the football, and that's obvious."
With the loss, the Steelers are 0-7 when the offense commits a turnover and 5-1 when it doesn't.
Trubisky orchestrated a second-quarter scoring drive with a 14-yard third-down pass to Pat Freiermuth and a 42-yard bomb to rookie wide receiver George Pickens. Running back Najee Harris capped off the drive with a 1-yard score to pull the Steelers within three in the first quarter after the Ravens had jumped out to a 10-0 lead.
But three of the Steelers' next four drives ended in an interception. Trubisky threw the first from Baltimore's 17-yard line, which was picked off by Smith. He was also picked off by linebacker Patrick Queen with the Steelers on the Ravens' 23 with 21 seconds left in the half, again targeting Freiermuth. And on his final interception, Trubisky targeted Diontae Johnson deep downfield, but Baltimore had safety help from Marcus Williams, who easily snagged the high pass on the 1-yard line.
"There's give and take," Trubisky said of being overly aggressive vs. conservative. "There's definitely a happy medium I need to find. I think when you have a great kicker like [Chris Boswell], and it's a low-scoring game, you've just got to be smarter with the football, and then a field goal keeps us in the game or helps us win it. You've just got to feel that, and obviously I want those throws back, but you want to stay aggressive at the same time. We were moving the ball. Part of that was helping with that aggressive mindset. But I've got to take care of the football, bottom line."
It's safe to assume that's why Tomlin said that the team would also give snaps to Mason Rudolph in practice if Pickett is not on the field.
Tomlin said that the team would "work both guys" in that scenario and called them both "capable" of running the offense. Tomlin added that he is "not even looking toward the end of the week" when it comes to who would get the start, so it will likely be some time before there's any word on who will be taking snaps this Sunday.
With four regular-season games left, the Steelers (5-8) need to win out -- or go 3-0-1 -- to avoid the first losing season in Tomlin's career as a head coach and make an outside push for a playoff spot.
"We probably left nine points out there today, and it's the difference in the game, if we get any of those points," center Mason Cole said. "It stinks, man. This one hurts."
I will, of course, be watching Pickett's progress closely in coming days. But this is Pickett's second concussion in less than two months. Nothing should be take for granted here.
In addition, Freiermuth (foot) did not practice on Wednesday. Neither did Harris, who has been working with a hip issue.
The tight end told Pryor he hurt his foot on his first catch when he got rolled up on. He added that he doesn't expect the injury to prevent him from playing in Week 15.
Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more on the QB situation, Harris and Freiermuth as the team goes through preparations for this week's game against the Panthers in Carolina. ...
A few final notes. ... According to Associated Press sports writer Will Graves, Pickens was right. Throw him the ball.
The rookie wide receiver -- who drew some unwanted attention after a couple of visible outbursts on the sideline in the second half of a win over Atlanta on Dec. 4 -- caught all three passes thrown his way on Sunday and drew a pass interference call on another deep ball that set up a touchdown.
Johnson led the Steelers with eight targets, while Freiermuth was at six. As LateRound.com's JJ Zachariason pointed out, Johnson has seen target shares of 29 percent, 41 percent and 26 percent of his last three games.
Johnson still hasn't scored a touchdown this year.
You can access complete stats for the Steelers Week 14 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Kenny Pickett, Mitchell Trubisky, Mason Rudolph
RBs: Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren, Anthony McFarland Jr.
WRs: George Pickens, Allen Robinson, Miles Boykin, Gunner Olszewski, Calvin Austin III, Diontae Johnson
TEs: Pat Freiermuth, Darnell Washington
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
When San Francisco 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan spoke with reporters Monday morning, he didn't have much in the way of injury updates on key players such as receiver Deebo Samuel and quarterback Brock Purdy.
That's because Samuel and Purdy were among a handful of Niners still having further tests done to determine the severity of their injuries.
After a few anxious hours at 49ers headquarters, they got what can only be considered positive news in the wake of what had all the makings of a devastating Sunday on the injury front.
According to the team, Samuel suffered a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee and a sprained left ankle. He will miss some time but there were no broken bones and he is "expected to return at some point during the regular season."
More specifically, Shanahan said at a press conference on Tuesday that the current feeling is that Samuel should be able to return in "three-ish" weeks.
There are only four weeks left in the season, so it doesn't look like Samuel will be playing multiple games before the regular season is over.
Even without Samuel, the Niners have other playmakers -- Christian McCaffrey, Brandon Aiyuk and George Kittle -- who can fill the void, but ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner contends they'll need others, such as wideout Jauan Jennings and running back Jordan Mason, to play bigger roles, because nobody else offers Samuel's versatility.
As for Purdy, he's considered day-to-day with what the team is calling a rib and oblique injury.
The issue will likely keep the 49ers from making a decision about his status for Thursday night's game against the Seahawks until shortly before kickoff.
That was the message from Shanahan on Tuesday.
The 49ers won't have a full practice all week and Purdy will be limited in any work that they do, which means that the coach will be taking as long as possible before settling on a starter.
"We'll find out as these two days go," Shanahan said, via 49ersWebzone.com. "We don't have much time, but we're not going to try to figure that out today or tomorrow. It will probably be on Thursday where we have the best chance to know."
Shanahan said that it's a question of pain management for Purdy and that there's no concern about making the injury worse if he does play. Purdy told reporters he feels good and that he hasn't been in "excruciating pain" while adding that he had not thrown a pass since Sunday.
That will likely be part of his limited practice work as the 49ers move toward determining his availability. Purdy is officially listed as questionable for this game.
Purdy played through the injury but departed late in the game with the Niners holding a big lead and attempting to run out the clock. Josh Johnson handled those snaps and will get any opportunities that open up this week or beyond as things stand now.
Of course, Purdy's first career start went about as well as could be expected on the field.
He impressed his coaches and teammates in his first start after Jimmy Garoppolo went down with a broken foot. He showed poise and playmaking ability on Sunday as he was able to extend plays and make big gains downfield against Tampa Bay's aggressive defense, and shake off his few mistakes.
"He is the same dude every day and he's the same guy on the field, whether he is making a good play or bad play," Shanahan said. "He's believes in himself and he's going to keep slinging it and ripping what he sees. And I think our guys feel that and when you're like that, it gives a lot of people confidence because you know it's a matter of time."
San Francisco can clinch the division with a win this week as the team has survived a run of injuries that have sidelined key players throughout the season.
"I think it shows the type of versatility and the type of depth that we have," fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. "When guys go down, there's always somebody else that can step in and fill those shoes. Unfortunately, we have to keep doing that. But it's good that we can."
I'll obviously have a close eye on Purdy and will report back further in advance of Thursday night's kickoff. Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for the latest. ...
Other notes of interest. ... After a couple of sluggish weeks running the ball, the Niners did a much better job on the ground against Tampa Bay.
McCaffrey had 14 carries for 119 yards and rookie Jordan Mason added 11 carries for 56 yards. In all, the Niners ran for a season-high 209 yards on 36 carries.
Along with running for 209 yards, San Francisco also didn't allow a single sack. That marked just the second time in six seasons under Shanahan that the Niners ran for at least 200 yards without allowing a sack. The other came in Week 2 against Cincinnati in 2019.
Finally. ... Aiyuk found the end Sunday, but he saw just a 13.6 percent target share. As LateRound.com's JJ. Zachariason notes, Aiyuk's lowest target share since Week 1 is 13.3 percent, so he was close to that.
Remember, this is the first full week with the quarterback change.
You can access complete stats for the 49ers Week 14 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Brock Purdy, Sam Darnold, Brandon Allen
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason, Tyrion Davis-Price, Kyle Juszczyk
WRs: Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Jauan Jennings, Ray-Ray McCloud, Ronnie Bell, Danny Gray
TEs: George Kittle, Charlie Woerner, Brayden Willis, Ross Dwelley, Cameron Latu
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
As Associated Press sports writer Tim Booth reminded readers, a month ago, it seemed the Seattle Seahawks were in control of the NFC West race.
In the time since, the Seahawks (7-6) have punted that away, thanks to three losses in four games, an inability to stop the run and failure in defending their home field.
The latest stumble came Sunday when Carolina became the second straight team with a losing record to walk into Lumen Field, run through Seattle's leaky defense and leave with a victory. Carolina's 30-24 win was highlighted by 223 yards rushing, two weeks after Las Vegas rushed for 283 yards while beating the Seahawks in Seattle.
It's a formula that has exposed Seattle's defensive limitations for several weeks now. And when quarterback Geno Smith has an off game like he did Sunday and Seattle has no run game of its own to lean on, it added up to another frustrating and disappointing performance.
"That's teams' recipe to beat us, just run the ball. We play it well, we play it well, and then all of a sudden we keep leaking yards," Seattle safety Quandre Diggs said. "That's our kryptonite right now. Until we stop that, teams are going to continue to do it and we just have to take a stand. There is not too much that you can really say."
There's no simple solution for Seattle and no expectation that the game plan of its opponents is going to change until the Seahawks go out and stop someone. Seattle's run defense is now 31st in the league in yards allowed with only Houston being worse. Of the 2,086 yards rushing allowed this season, 838 have come in the past four games.
And it's not going to get easier with San Francisco next on Thursday night and a situation in which Seattle could end up watching its division rival celebrate an NFC West title on the Seahawks' home field.
Adding to the intrigue, the status of a handful of injured players likely won't be known until later in the week.
Running back Kenneth Walker III, who was inactive Sunday due to an ankle injury suffered a week earlier, but he was able to work fully in practice and avoided injury designation on Wednesday.
As for running back DeeJay Dallas, who is dealing with a high-ankle sprain, Carroll said on his morning radio show on Seattle Sports 710 AM that "it'll be a great comeback if he's able to come back this week," implying that Dallas playing on Thursday is not very likely.
Even though injuries have left the running back group severely thinned, the continued problems go back more than just a couple of weeks.
Seattle hasn't seen one of its running backs rush for more than 37 yards since Week 9 at Arizona. Walker seemed poised for a big day against the Rams a week ago before suffering an ankle injury that knocked him out for the game.
With Walker and Dallas out against the Panthers, the Seahawks were left to cobble together a running attack with backups Travis Homer and Tony Jones Jr.
As LateRound.com's JJ Zachariason notes, Homer ended up playing an absurdly high 91 percent snap share today. He had 90 percent of the team's running back rushes and an 8.3 percent target share.
While a drop-off was to be expected, what little the Seahawks got out of their running game might have been even less than anticipated as they were held to 46 yards on 14 carries -- their third-lowest total of the season.
Homer got 16 on one run, and Smith 13 on another, meaning the Seahawks gained 17 yards on their other 12 attempts.
Carroll, though, seemed to put most of the blame on the offensive line.
"He never really got going," Carroll said of Homer, who got the start and most of the snaps and finished with 26 yards on nine carries. "He had one great run and just couldn't get going. We've continued to find trouble at the line of scrimmage, and we haven't been clean for a bit. He couldn't get rolling."
Seattle elevated Godwin Igwebuike off the practice squad to add a third running back. Igwebuike did not get a carry but served as one of the game's few highlights with kickoff returns of 50 and 35 yards, and Carroll said he might keep that role going forward.
"Yeah, he did great," Carroll said. "I thought he was a real surprise for us today to pop up like that, and he looked great at it. He was tough and fast and explosive and all of that. He will get another look."
So what happens now with a short turnaround to Thursday night against the 49ers -- who entered the weekend first in the NFL in rushing defense, allowing just 75.6 per game and then held Tampa Bay to 69 Sunday?
Expect a heavy dose of Walker.
I'll have more on Dallas via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday night's kickoff, although it seems likely he'll miss his second straight game.
Do the Seahawks have a chance against San Francisco?
The 49ers hammered Tampa Bay on Sunday to improve to 9-4, giving them a two-game lead over Seattle in the NFC West heading into Thursday night's showdown at Lumen Field. The Seahawks need to win that game to have any shot at catching the 49ers, and they might get a break with Niners star receiver Deebo Samuel suffering an ankle injury Sunday.
Other notes of interest. ... Perhaps the most underappreciated wide receiver in the NFL had another spectacular touchdown catch that seemed to get overlooked with the problems on defense. Tyler Lockett set a franchise record with a touchdown catch in his sixth straight game and very few have been better in his career.
Lockett's toe-tap grab at the back of the end zone will likely be on his career highlight reel. It was his eighth TD catch of the season, matching his total from 2021.
"Any other guy you might be, like, well, did he get his feet in or did he not, but with Tyler you are just 100 percent sure he did," Smith said. "He is that good. He has done that over and over again."
You can access complete stats for the Seahawks Week 14 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Geno Smith, Drew Lock
RBs: Kenneth Walker III, Zach Charbonnet, DeeJay Dallas, Kenny McIntosh
WRs: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Cody Thompson, Dareke Young, Jake Bobo
TEs: Noah Fant, Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
As ESPN.com's Jenna Laine reported it, nothing the Tampa Bay Buccaneers drew up Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers went according to plan in a humiliating 35-7 loss that dropped them to 6-7 and spoiled quarterback Tom Brady's Bay Area homecoming -- just the second time he has played there in 23 years.
Not the five touchdowns surrendered to a team led by rookie quarterback Brock Purdy in his first career start or the 209 rushing yards given up to Christian McCaffrey and Co. -- the second most since coach Todd Bowles arrived in Tampa in 2019, after once leading this team to a No. 1 defensive ranking against the run.
Even the one time the Bucs reached the end zone -- an 8-yard touchdown pass from Brady to wide receiver Russell Gage -- was an accident, as it bounced off wide receiver Chris Godwin, the intended target, and into Gage's hands and required an extensive review by officials.
"We've got to decide what team we want to be," Bowles said. "We can't be one set of Bucs and another set of Bucs. It's got to mean something. ... Either we want it or we don't. We can't care more than everybody else. As a coach, you don't go out on the field, but we got outcoached, so we're not excused from this at all. We got outplayed as well. As a team, as a group, we've got to buckle down and decide what our fate is in the next few weeks."
Brady, who had been 7-0 against rookie quarterbacks making their NFL debuts, was handed the third-largest defeat in his NFL career.
"They kicked our ass," he said bluntly.
Despite being one game below .500, the Bucs have a one-game lead in the NFC South with four games to go.
They're just the eighth team in NFL history to have a losing record and be leading a division after Week 14, according to ESPN Stats and Information research.
But the offense has shown no signs of getting it together, averaging 16.69 points per game, 29th in the league. Only twice this year have the Bucs managed to win back-to-back games.
"We can't be up and down like we've been all year," tight end Cam Brate said. "It's tough, man. It hurts. And kind of embarrassing for everyone to have the outcome we had today."
Their play Sunday was that way, too and the frustration is building.
With 5:10 to go in the second quarter and the Niners up 21-0, outside linebacker Anthony Nelson jarred the ball loose from wide receiver Deebo Samuel with inside linebacker Lavonte David recovering it, but Brady couldn't hit Godwin or Evans in the end zone.
"We're just not making plays," Evans said. "The plays that we're used to making in previous years, we're just not making them as consistent. I don't know what it is. We're just not connecting like we usually do."
Added Brady: "I made a sh---y throw to Mike. At the end of the day, it was a terrible throw, so I've got to make it."
When it was pointed out that the throw to Evans would have been a touchdown and was executed to near perfection, Brady said, "Yeah, but ...Yeah, but ...There's been a lot of that this year."
Players say it hasn't been a function of not practicing together or a lack of reps.
Brady has seldom taken days off after Bowles initially said he would on Wednesdays. Julio Jones has been back since Week 8. Gage returned last week. The only receiving weapon missing has been Breshad Perriman.
"We practice a lot together. We all practice a lot together," Evans said. "It ain't practice. I don't know what other people -- but it ain't practice. We come out here. We're just very inconsistent and just a very unfortunate season so far."
Added Brate: "It's been hard this year. Execution on game day has not been where it needs to be. Obviously we're a different team than we were the past couple of years -- different strengths and weaknesses -- we've just got to figure out a way to move the ball consistently on offense. It's been a struggle for us. We've just got to figure out how to do it."
The protection continues to be a problem, only worsening without All-Pro right tackle Tristan Wirfs, who missed the second consecutive week with a high ankle sprain. Despite the offensive line not giving up a sack, Brady was hit a season-high eight times. His pressure rating was 23.2 percent (third highest of the season) and his off-target percentage was 26.4 percent (season worst).
And then there's this. ...
As USA Today's Luke Easterling notes, when you've accomplished what Brady has throughout his legendary 23-year career in the NFL, you're allowed a measure of freedom and power when it comes to how things are run on your side of the ball.
Evidently, Brady's level of influence when it comes to the Buccaneers includes holding court with the offensive skill-position players the night before every game, making changes that even his coaches don't discover until they see them play out during the game.
That's according to longtime NFL writer Mike Silver of the San Francisco Chronicle, who dropped this little detail in his postgame column following the Bucs' loss to the San Francisco 49ers:
"The level of responsibility that Brady imposes upon himself has always been massive, and this year, he's taxed to the max. One example: On the night before each game, Brady runs a separate meeting with the Bucs' skill players during which he goes over the gameplan, makes tweaks to assignments and formations and provides a revised blueprint -- one which Bowles, offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich and the rest of the staff are left to discover in real time once the game begins."
Those tweaks haven't seemed to help much this season, as the Bucs have struggled to move the ball and score consistently on offense all year long. The same was true Sunday, when they managed just a garbage-time touchdown to avoid a shutout.
Meanwhile, Atlanta, which has lost its past two, gained ground Sunday despite having a bye last week. Carolina has won two in a row -- five of six overall, including a 21-3 home win over Tampa Bay -- to get back in the race.
The Bucs, who are 3-1 within the division, faces red-hot Cincinnati at home Sunday before playing at Arizona on Christmas Day.
Ultimately, though, the NFC South figures to be decided when the Bucs face the Panthers at home and Falcons on the road in the last two weeks of the regular season.
"It's about doing the right things and following through and finishing it up," Bowles said Monday of what the Bucs need to do to close strong, win the division and guarantee themselves a home game in the playoffs.
"The talking part is kind of over," the coach added. "It's kind of about producing at this point in time. ..."
On the injury front. ... Late in Sunday's loss, San Francisco removed Purdy. Tampa Bay kept the 45-year-old Brady in the game until the game officially was over.
On Monday, Bowles was asked about the decision to not give Brady the hook.
"No, not at the time," Bowles told reporters. "We were still trying to score some points. I think they held the ball the last part of it. Just to hand the ball off and concede the game, that wasn't it. We were trying to work on some things, so we let him stay in the game."
Brady was dealing with an obviously tender hand thanks to bouncing it off a helmet..
After the game, the first question he faced related to his hand.
"It's all right," Brady said. "It's fine. No problem."
Meanwhile, Jones did not practice Wednesday due to a knee issue.
The veteran wideout missed time with a knee issue earlier this season and has also taken practices off to help manage the knee injury.
We'll watch for more on that and report back via Late-Breaking Update as needed. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Brady's 8-yard TD pass to Gage was the seven-time Super Bowl champion's 100th since joining the Bucs. He joined Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, Fran Tarkenton and Kurt Warner as the only quarterbacks to throw at least 100 TD passes for multiple teams. ...
According to LateRound.com's JJ Zachariason, Evans hasn't finished as a weekly top-30 wide receiver in PPR formats since Week 8.
In addition, Rachaad White out-snapped Leonard Fournette 39 to 36 in San Francisco.
There were pretty clear roles that formed: Fournette ran 10 more routes, while White out-attempted Fournette 13 to 4 on the ground.
You can access complete stats for the Buccaneers Week 14 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Kyle Trask
RBs: Rachaad White, Sean Tucker, Chase Edmonds, Ke'Shawn Vaughn
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Trey Palmer, Kaylon Geiger, Deven Thompkins, Rakim Jarrett, Russell Gage
TEs: Cade Otton, Ko Kieft, Payne Durham
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
The Tennessee Titans are stuck in their first three-game skid since Mike Vrabel's debut season with the latest loss just plain old "bad football."
Yet they're still atop the AFC South, chasing their third straight division title with four games remaining.
First, they have to fix a lot of mistakes and hopefully start getting some key Titans back.
According to Associated Press sports writer Teresa M. Walker, Vrabel said Monday that nobody did anything good enough consistently enough for the Titans in a 36-22 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
"That's the challenge," Vrabel said. "It's not looking ahead to how many games we have left. It's making sure that we eliminate bad football and that we find ways to go out there and play complementary, which we've done. Certainly haven't done it here recently."
The previous time this franchise lost three consecutive games, two came on the road. This time, the Titans have lost two of these three at home.
The 2018 Titans finished 9-7 and missed the playoffs when an injured Marcus Mariota couldn't start the season finale, leading to the March 2019 trade for Ryan Tannehill.
These Titans (7-6) currently have 15 on injured reserve, including last year's sack leader in Harold Landry Jr., both starting inside linebackers and a three-time Pro Bowl left tackle. They played against Jacksonville with four key defenders out injured.
Titans owner Amy Adams Strunk fired general manager Jon Robinson last week and made clear roster construction was a big part of her decision. That doesn't help the next man up approach the Titans have leaned heavily on over the past two years.
Next up is a Sunday game in Los Angeles against the Chargers (7-6). Vrabel has to figure out how to make who he has available work.
"I don't think we have any other choice," Vrabel said.
The obvious answer is to lean on the running game.
Derrick Henry had more yards by the end of the first quarter with 96 than he had managed in any of the previous four games.
Henry had a 50-yard run that was more than he had in either of the past two games.
The less obvious answer is to make better halftime adjustments.
They've been outscored 147-70 and managed only eight points against the Jaguars after trailing only 20-14 at halftime. The Titans rank 26th in the NFL, averaging a mere 18.5 points because their offense disappears after halftime, and they're last in averaging 5.4 points in the second half.
They've scored more than eight points only three times this season in the second half, and Tennessee has been completely shut out in four games. The Titans also are last in the league with 46 three-and-outs in the second half. They rank 28th in offensive penalties with 84 after halftime.
Another possible avenue for improvement?
Rookie tight end Chigoziem Okonkwo.
Okonkwo caught every pass thrown to him with six catches for 45 yards, including one touchdown. That doesn't include the 2-point conversion Okonkwo caught with one hand and pinned against his face mask and helmet in the fourth quarter.
Another piece worth watching is Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, who led Titans receivers in routes run (40) and targets (8) Sunday. Okonkwo ran 21 routes, six fewer than tight end teammate Austin Hooper.
However they do it and whoever helps them get there, the goal is obvious: Snap the skid.
Winning three of the final four games would keep the regular-season finale in Jacksonville from putting a playoff berth on the line. The Titans host Houston (1-11-1) on Dec. 24 and Dallas (10-3) on Dec. 29 for their only back-to-back home games this season with a chance to clinch a wild-card game in Nashville.
On the injury front. ... Treylon Burks still in concussion protocol. I'll be watching for more on him in coming days. ... Vrabel said running back and special teams player Dontrell Hilliard will not play Sunday after being carted off the field with a neck injury. Vrabel said he saw Hilliard on Monday, and he was doing good.
In a related note. ... The Titans have used NFL-high 80 players this season -- after using an league-record 91 players in a non-strike season in 2021.
The Titans used four new players against the Jaguars to push past Arizona (77), Rams (76), Detroit (74) and the Giants (74). ...
Finally. ... The Titans lost quarterback Logan Woodside off their practice squad over the weekend as the Falcons signed him to serve as Desmond Ridder's backup Sunday.
That left the Titans with only two quarterbacks.
They added a third with Kevin Hogan returning to Tennessee to backup Tannehill and Malik Willis. Hogan signed with the team's practice squad, the Titans announced Tuesday.
Hogan spent part of the 2021 season on the team's practice squad. He appeared in one game in 2021 with the Titans, seeing seven offensive snaps. Tennessee waived Hogan after drafting Willis last spring.
You can access complete stats for the Titans Week 14 game via our exclusive Fantasy BoxScore.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Malik Willis, Will Levis
RBs: Derrick Henry, Tyjae Spears, Julius Chestnut
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Treylon Burks, Nick Westbrook_Ikhine, Colton Dowell, Chris Moore, Kyle Philips
TEs: Chigoziem Okonkwo, Josh Whyle, Trevon Wesco
Washington CommandersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 December 2022
As Associated Press sports writer Stephen Whyno suggested, Ron Rivera may have sounded a little delusional after the Washington Commanders lost for the fourth time in five games to start the season.
The veteran NFL coach was convinced there were good pieces in place in his third season in charge of Washington's football operations. He sensed a turnaround was possible.
"We had a chance to beat Tennessee, and we didn't," Rivera said. "I wanted to throw up after that. We could have beat Minnesota. My stomach turned."
The Commanders have not lost since that stomach-turning defeat to the Vikings, winning their next three and tying the New York Giants on Sunday to get to their bye week at 7-5-1 and very much in the hunt for an NFC wild-card spot.
Starting slow and heating up is a familiar script for Rivera-coached teams going back to his time with Carolina, and a return to the playoffs is possible if the trend continues.
Rivera has drawn parallels between now and his third season with the Panthers, and while this isn't as impressive as the eight-game winning streak in 2013 it's the product of a lot of things going right when it matters.
"It's interesting because going back and looking in my past for nine seasons in one spot, we never had the same secondary, and so defensively we were always scrambling to put it together," Rivera said. "Offensively, we never really truly had a set wide receiver core, but the one constant we always had was we were very good run defenders, and we were very good run offenses. And as everything else caught up to that, then it really kind of comes together."
The defense has come together so well after a rough start that Chase Young is being held back from returning until he's fully healthy more than a year since surgery to repair a torn ACL in his right knee. The unit ranks sixth in the league -- up from 23rd four weeks into the season.
"With the way we're playing right now and, we're playing pretty well on the defensive front, the need to get him on the field hasn't been that you've got to have him out there (like) we need -- it was a must," Rivera said Monday. "Because our guys are playing well, we can get him back when he's 100 percent ready to roll. And that's the biggest thing. We don't want to put him out there when he is not ready."
There's also no reason to rush previous starter Carson Wentz back at quarterback.
Taylor Heinicke is 5-1-1 since taking over, and even with the offense sputtering at times, he does what the Commanders need to manager their ball-control offense that leans heavily on the run and leads the league in time of possession.
Rivera squashed any suggestion of being tempted to go back to Wentz over Heinicke.
"This is who we are," Rivera said. "We're running the ball right now. We're controlling the time of possession. We're keeping our defense fresh. There's some things obviously that could help. I think right now for where we are and who we are, I think we're in a good spot."
While there's no rush to move him ahead of Heinicke, the Commanders announced on Monday that Wentz has been activated off injured reserve. Wentz's 21-day practice window was set to run out this week.
Rivera has said that Wentz will be the backup to Heinicke once he's healthy.
More than anything, the Commanders have a good chance at making the playoffs with four games left: against the Giants in prime time on Dec. 18, at San Francisco on Christmas Eve, home against the Cleveland Browns on New Year's Day and their regular-season finale against the Dallas Cowboys.
Washington is unbeaten in two night games so far this season and gets to have this next one at home after the bye.
"This is about as big a stage we've been on since the Monday night game or the Thursday night game we played," Rivera said. "I'm pretty fired up for our guys. I really am, just because we have guys that deserve some exposure."
Finally. ... The Commanders appear to be in relatively good health coming off the bye, but there are some issues.
Running backs Brian Robinson Jr. (quad) Antonio Gibson (foot) as well as receivers Dax Milne and Cam Sims all worked on a limited basis Wednesday.
I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed.
QBs: Sam Howell, Jacoby Brissett
RBs: Brian Robinson Jr., Jonathan Williams, Antonio Gibson, Chris Rodriguez
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown, Dax Milne, Byron Pringle, Mitchell Tinsley
TEs: Logan Thomas, Cole Turner, John Bates